Thursday, September 24, 2009

DWTS's Tribute to Patrick Swayze

I thought it was so awesome that Dancing With the Stars did a tribute to Patrick Swayze last night.

Every time I watch awesome ballroom dancing, it inspires me to take lessons. Unfortunately, MoJo dislikes dancing although he does it sometimes at weddings to make me happy. I am grateful that I don't have to drag him kicking and screaming to the dance floor. But boy, how I wish we ballroom danced together for fun. :-/

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Bikram Yoga East Harlem

Yesterday, I decided to practice at Bikram East Harlem because I've heard so many wonderful things about the place from fellow bikram yogis at my studio.  I planned to take the 11am class with teacher and studio owner Stephanie Pope Caffey.  It was a bit of a schlep from my apartment but it was worth the trip and I'm happy I went.  Besides, I love checking out different studios.

First, the studio is beautiful, clean, and not smelly (I won't mention any names but there are definitely some studios here in the city that have some serious funk going on and it smacks your olfactory nerve as soon as you open the front door, which is a real shame).  The color palette of the studio is brown and ochre yellow with lots of wood (hardwood floors, bath mats, doors, blinds) and candles.  The studio occupies the upper two floors of a three-story walk-up.  The first floor is the lobby, men and women's locker rooms, a small waiting area, and a small studio for private sessions.  The main studio on the second floor is bright with windows that allow lots of natural light and high ceilings.  Right outside the hot room, is a small waiting area that houses a rotating art gallery of work from local artists.

I was greeted by a sweet, older woman at the desk.  Later, I find out it is Stephanie's mom (Stephanie's sister is the studio's operations manager) who was so sweet that I wanted to take her home!  She got me registered, checked me in, and pointed out the lay of the land.  From the moment I entered the lobby, I was struck by the fact that the studio truly served the community.  Most of the peoople milling about the studio were African-American and in my class at 11am, the majority of the students were multicultural in background. I had never practiced in a US yoga studio where this was the case.  In fact, Stephanie is the first black yoga teacher I've ever had.  So cool!  I set myself up and when Stephanie walked in, she asked me to identify myself.  "Welcome to the studio," she said warmly.  "Thank you," I replied.  And then we began our 90-minute moving meditation.  She was a great teacher:  stuck to the dialogue, was encouraging and compassionate, called out corrections to students, and reminded us to practice our stillness in between postures.  At some point during the class, Stephanie said to a student, "You are in a safe place here.  As teachers, we do a lot of talking.  If you listen carefully and follow our instructions, you will be okay.  I am here to help you so let yourself try.  (pause)  Outside this studio, well, that's different!"  Another time, she really encouraged us to go for it in each and every pose and asked us to consider this:  "Instead of anticipating the end of the posture and waiting to hear 'change', you hear 'change' and then give it one last push and go for your best before you come out."  Hmmm...never thought of it that way.

After my shower, Stephanie and I chatted a bit.  She offered to give me back my money and I looked at her quizically. 

Me:  Really?!  My class is free? 
Stephanie:  Yes, teachers are free.
Me:  Oh!!!  I'm not a teacher! 
Stephanie:  Really?!  Ok, then you don't get your money back.  (laughs)  I totally mistook you for a teacher!  You have such a beautiful practice.
Me:  Awwww...thank you so much!!  You know, you're not the first person who has said that to me.
Stephanie:  Have you thought about becoming one?
Me:  Definitely.

I've considered teaching, yes.  And I've even considered becoming a studio owner.  But there's something in my heart that tells me to wait.  Now doesn't seem to be the right time.

If I lived in the neighborhood, I would totally support Stephanie's studio, because who doesn't want to support a business that is a total asset to the local community?!  If you are a regular bikram yogi in the city or simply visiting the city, consider checking out her studio.  It is a family-run business that is warm, welcoming, and captures the heart and soul of yoga.

This is Stephanie teaching.  Look how pumped she is.  You go girl!

All photos are courtesy of Bikram Yoga East Harlem.

Bikram Yoga East Harlem
4 East 116th Street
New York, NY  10029
(b/w Fifth & Madison Avenues)
212-369-1830 (Phone)
212-369-1824 (Fax)

Monday, September 14, 2009

RIP Patrick Swayze

As a teenager, I fondly looked back at the 80s and divided the decade into two distinct periods: pre-Dirty Dancing & post-Dirty Dancing. I still divide the 80s that way today.

Yes. The release of Dirty Dancing in 1987 opened up my innocent 11-year-old eyes and mind. You could say that it was a coming of age for me as the movie introduced me to issues of class, women's rights, and charged sexuality. I had to sneak into the theater to watch Dirty Dancing because it was rated PG-13. Immediately, I related to Baby Houseman whose jaw you see drop in the following scene when introduced to something she had never been exposed to. I understood her rapidly changing emotions from discomfort to embarrassment to curiosity as she watched what has happening in front of her. When Johnny beckons Baby with his finger, she goes from being a voyuer to a participant. And just when she's just about getting the hang of it and she begins to enjoy herself, she is spun around and is left wanting more.

Like Baby, my jaw dropped watching everything I was being exposed to. I especially couldn't help but be mesmerized by the undulation of Patrick Swayze's hips. Like the generations before me who went gaga for Elvis Presley and John Travolta, there is just something captivating and incredibly sexy about a man who has the ability to move his hips with such suave grace. I was hooked. He was my biggest crush in the 6th grade.

When Patrick Swayze was promoting the movie, he was a guest on Z100, the local radio station. I was one of the lucky call-in winners that won an autographed copy of the soundtrack on cassette tape (which I still own)! I also asked my friend to tape the movie on VHS when it aired on HBO since we didn't have cable. When the tape was ready, I rode my bike to her house without telling my mother. I kept watching it and watching it to the point that I even memorized Baby's steps in their dance number.

Little did I know that this movie would capture my heart again in seven years when I enrolled at the very college that Baby was going to attend to study economics. Lines like, "Baby's going to Mount Holyoke in the Fall" and "[My name is]Frances...after the first woman in the Cabinet" suddenly had extra special meaning.

So thank you Patrick Swayze for your movies and your dance moves. Thank you for inspiring me to shake my own hips on the dance floor and to fall in love with ballroom dancing. Thank you for teaching us how to live with courage in the final chapter of our lives. And thank you for being a Hollywood anamoly: a devoted husband to your wife of 34 years.

Oh yeah, and thanks for teaching us about humility and the ability to mock yourself.

For a real in-depth analysis of Dirty Dancing check out this blog.