At the Oscars, Ellen did a pretty fantastic job of rallying the stars to be just like us with group selfies and pizza parties. OK– so maybe our selfies aren’t exactly of the iconic stature that hers was. And most of us aren’t eating pizza served by Brad Pitt … but still. There was something sweet about Ellen’s gesture of sparking the A-list to come down– just a teeny bit –off their pedestal of Hollywood Royalty.
When I watched the red carpet (to research for my piece here) I wondered — which of these women feel good, comfortable and are truly expressing who they are? Sure, it’s fun to play dress up. And many would jump at the chance to be a princess for the night. But with the exquisite gowns and beyond bling-y jewels on temporary loan, some are literally enacting a Cinderella routine. Although when the clock strikes 12, it’s not a pumpkin they’re turning into it… it’s the return to their true self. So which actresses didn’t have to role play on the red carpet? Who was able to radiate with MindBodySOUL style? Here’s my take on that.
If Lupita Nyong’o moves like this in her custom gown — I’d say she’s got her MindBodySoul style on!
Jennifer Garner looked flirty, fabulous and totally ready to shimmy. Love that this mom of 3 keeps it moving.Amy Adams told interviewers that she didn’t work with a stylist for the Oscars because she wanted to be completely in charge of what she wore. The sophisticated, tuxedo-like gown showed she’s a serious actress, and even more important she said, it felt like me.
I can totally see the real Amy Adams here -> awesome!
Cate Blanchett said her dress felt heavy, but she loved it. Hey, I’m all for a little pain to gain…as long as she’s wearing what she loves.
Who do you think captured their MindBodySOUL style at the Oscars?
After making the rounds through NY, London, and Milan, fashion month is finally finishing up with its last leg in Paris.
And though I’m more interested in the evolution of personal style with an everyday attitude — one that unfolds from the mind, body + soul– the happenings on the catwalk still intrigue.
Because this girl likes to dream.
And that’s what fashion shows are about — a theatrical staging meant to open eyes, push boundaries and evoke a response. Sometimes over-the-top and eccentric. Other times playful with a whimsical twist. There are many times I can’t relate to the clothes –a furry floor length dress with athletically inspired details? Not exactly my answer to sporty chic. But I like to see what the designers are doing. I think of it as research — what colors or prints did they show that speak to me? Which silhouettes will flatter my 5’4″ frame? And most importantly, which looks do I LOVE? How can I use these as inspiration — to inform my future purchases, and to help me create fresh outfits from the pieces already hanging in my closet? MindBodySOUL style comes from within, but just like any personal expression — a little inspiration from the outside can shine in the right light.
I know that catching up on all the shows can be overwhelming –the sheer volume of ensembles on display is a lot to digest. Couple that with dramatic hair, other-wordly makeup, and an overall presentation of unrealistic proportions–I’m often left thinking, how would I ever pull that off? Or WHY would I ever want to pull that off? The key is to hone in on what resonates with YOU. I like color. I also gravitate towards prints. And I’ll always go for something with a sporty spin. The fact that I’m someone who tries to see the bright side, likes to keep things interesting with little details, and is always on the go, means that I’m connecting with the clothes that could best express my true self. It’s styling from the inside out. The clothing must fit well on both body and soul.
So back to the dream.
Here’s a few looks I’d like to grab from the fall runways to wear tomorrow.
**I took 3 deep breaths. Then responded to the situation
**I went beyond what they expected. And what I expected.
**I made eye contact with a stranger. Then smiled
**I completely stopped what I was doing…to listen.
**I found the awe in the everyday. And let it fill me.
I’m going to try to do at least 3 of these today.
What little things can you do today to light up your soul ?
I don’t send texts with typos. My clothing faces the same direction in my closet. And I’m not satisfied until my to-dos are all Xed off the list.
Does this make me crazy?
And these goals are mostly attainable. What happens when my strive for perfection outreaches my reality?
Like in dance class the other day, what if I got caught up in mastering the moves that were well beyond my ability?
I’d be pretty darn disappointed… in myself.
Which is why I try to keep my practice for expression, not perfection.
In yoga when moving into a pose–rather than pushing for perfection–it comes much easier when my body relaxes, and my breath fills the shape. By following the openings created by my breath, I can find my true expression.
So how do the Olympians do it? Are they’re striving for perfection?
I like to think they’re finding their flow.
The mindbody relaxes into the motion which reveals their ultimate expression.
And that’s what wins the gold.
We’re perfect beings who do things imperfectly- Suzuki Roshi
The other day my dear, dancing friend from Sirena Tales guided me towards a cool site that lists every class in NYC. I popped over to Dance ‘n Tell to take a peek, and was immediately drawn towards Nia Love — happening the very next day at Abrams Art Center– a mere 1 block from my place.
I had taken Nia before, I even posted on it here. So I considered myself lucky to have stumbled upon this offering so close to home.
Then I read the class description.
It wasn’t Nia Dance. It was the instructor Nia Love who would be teaching Modern Roots – stacking sequential rhythmic patterns built on cardio and core work with an urban approach that partners-up with African, postmodern, Butoh, funk and blues sensibilities.
Okay, I definitely got the cardio and core work. African– I have tried it before. But postmodern, Butoh, funk and blues –not so much. And what is stacking sequential rhythmic patterns?
I wavered back and forth on whether to go, but with a little encouragement from my dear dancing friend, and my own thought process which values the discomfort that accompanies personal growth– I decided to go for it.
After arriving a bit early, I spoke to Nia to get some more info on the class. I’m not a *real* dancer so didn’t want to be thrown in the deep end with a bunch of pros. She confirmed that indeed it was open. We would be moving our bodies for expression, and will hopefully learn something as well.
Class began in a circle of introductions. Nia told us about her herself — which included her yoga and pilates background.
This is getting even better.
The introductions continued around the room revealing a diverse bunch of choreographers, movement artists, another yoga and pilates person and an aerial silks guy.
Then we went into the warm up which did have some yoga and pilates stuff thrown in. I was feeling pretty great holding my plank pose while we went around the room announcing our birthdays — mine was the previous day, so that was fun. Then I learned the others were born while I was in high school.
Next, it was time to move across the floor.
And let me just say, there were no run-run-leaps going across this floor.
It was real-deal choreography– the kind of stuff I LOVE watching others do –in poly rhythms, and a lot of fast ‘n fancy footwork (counting in trios nonetheless!)
In yoga, there are a plenty of poses that I can’t do– handstand, scorpion, king pigeon, to name a few– but my body understands how to practice getting into those poses. My body doesn’t really do choreography so well.
I started off okay. Ish. But as soon as more moves were added ( is that the stacking part of the online class description?) I got lost.
There was a moment– just before my turn–the sweet French guy with 10 years of dance experience asked me if we were starting on the right or left.
I didn’t even know MY right from left, let alone the choreographed right and left.
Then Nia chimed in.
Feel the funk. This isn’t serious. Have fun!
Well, I’m always down to get funky with Fela Kuti, or whatever that Afro-Cuban blend she was blasting.
So I felt it.
Did it help my steps? Um, maybe a teeny bit.
But it helped my soul. My moves became my expression.
Will this become a regular movement practice for me? It could.
And I bet it would feel pretty EFFIN’ fantastic to express my moves IN that choreography.
Daft Punk said it well.
Doin’ it right
Everybody will be dancing
And we’ll be feeling it right
Everybody will be dancing
And be doin’ it right
Everybody will be dancing
When we’re feeling all right
What’s your experience in taking class outside your comfort zone?
There are many times I’ve relied on soaring melodies and earth trodden beats to flip my mood from ick to awesome.
And that’s not even including my time at the gym where the playlist is EVERYTHING.
The other day, I felt the magic of music do it’s thing– uplift, connect and negate negativity– and the school bus was involved.
Check it out.
It was G’s school trip at the ice-skating rink. As a chaperone, I was responsible for both G and another little one. Turned out this other little one wasn’t very comfortable on the ice. At all. Her tiny limbs went crazy, zig-zagging around with limited hope of finding balance. I tried to help. She cried. I started to sweat. She fell. I fell too. I looked around for G who was gliding by in unison with the soundtrack. Lorde was blasting from the speakers. G loves Lorde. I love Lorde! Suddenly, the little one with no skills on the ice didn’t seem like such the burden. Team had energized and picked both of us back up.
A little later — on the school bus — screaming children and NYC traffic were the only sounds surrounding my brain. I felt my winter layers start to suffocate my skin, and my cramped legs prickly with lack of circulation. Then something shifted. The kids started to sing. And so did the teachers. The entire bus broke out in I’ve Been Working On The Railroad. Then Jingle Bells. And then some song about how they Ain’t Going to Study War No More. Their music had not only pulled me out of my misery. It connected the kids, and brought us all into the present.
The singing children eventually stopped after over an hour on the bus (damn second avenue subway construction — will that train ever exist?) By the time we arrived back at school I was done. As in brain-fried, body-beat, completely toast.
So what did I do on the walk home? I popped in my ear buds and hit start on Spiritual Grooves (I really do have that playlist, and I’d love to share, if you like…). Pretty quickly I found my happy place.
What’s your story on the magic of music?
It can be created around fashion, from the front rows of the runway shows.
Or it can be a charming collection of hand-picked faves.
It doesn’t have to be in line with the latest must-haves. It’s aligned with your center, the axis of truth.
With well suited attributes, it embodies the perfect fit.
An attitude of grace. No need to over think.
Though recognized on the outside, it’s your radiance from within.
An expression of your connection that goes way deeper than skin.
How would you define mindbody soul style?
Do you ever get that feeling you’re just going through the motions with your workout?
Your body is there, in exercise mode. But the mind has completely left the building.
I get this.
From the mental management of tomorrow’s to-do list to last week’s blowout with my best friend — my mind can go everywhere except to meet my body. I’m not aligned with my movement activity, and there’s a total disconnect in the workout.
We all know the benefits of exercise which is why so many of us make time for it regularly. But it doesn’t have to be a chore – that thing that weighs heavily on the brain until it’s x’ed off the list.
Go for the activity that brings your mind into your body.
So when you’re in the movement, you can be in the moment.
Your mind clears, your body rides the breath.
You’re in the flow. In the zone.
That’s the mindbody workout.
Every moment is an opportunity to meditate.
What does your mindfulness practice look like?
Ever since flying free on the trapeze I’ve had an inner urge to keep at it — high above the ground. Aerial silks, with its natural defiance of gravity, seemed like the next move to make. With roots in circus arts and yoga, I decided that since I’ve already got the yogi thing (sort of) down, why not give it a go, and get it off the ground!
WHAT IS IT?
Aerial yoga is a fusion practice. It takes traditional yoga poses and places them in or around a silk hammock. There’s a definite level of strength and balance infused in trying to maneuver within the draping piece of fabric. Themes like trust, and play are explored within the framework of the breath while working to find personal expression and grace.
WHAT THE SCENE LOOKS LIKE
Women who know yoga. One woman told me she was in the midst of an Ashtanga teacher training which required her to try different yoga variations. A couple others looked very relaxed inverting in the air. Oh, and the overall room was vibrant with orange silks underneath every move.
THE RHYTHM OF THE ROOM
Light. Airy. Flowing.
It could be anything, really. In my class it was downtempo. I heard Erykah Badu and my favorite from Radiohead, Reckoner.
MIND, BODY OR SOUL WORKOUT?
All of them. A wandering mind will leave your body flat on the floor — so you must stay present! Also, it’s fun. The soul LOVES to play! We swung. We flew. We did somersaults. We hung upside down. Think- kids at a playground. Then add an Om.
Would you ever try aerial yoga?
The other day in yoga, the teacher told us we’d be working with the elephant. She had us wag our tails, sweep our arms like a trunk, and make all of our moves very creature-like…it was a little weird.
Though I have spent countless hours finding my (downward) dog, cobra, crow, and firefly, I’ve never actually considered connecting to the wisdom of these animals.
It seems that if I can tune into my spirit animal, I’ll feel more grounded in the earth which can help guide me towards making better decisions in life.
I’ll take the Golden Eagle.
Well, apparently it doesn’t quite work like that. According to ancient beliefs, our spirit animal chooses us- not the other way around. And to discover yours, it requires spending a lot of time in nature, observing wildlife and meditating.
I can work on the meditation bit, but spending time in nature with animals isn’t really an option right now.
So in the meantime I found this little quiz…
Turns out I’m a butterfly.
What’s your spirit animal? And what’s been your experience in connecting with it?
The downtown F train isn’t exactly the place I’d expect to find my zen. Usually it’s the place of inbetweens–where we find each other on our way. So it was a bit of a surprise when my subway ride came alive the other day.
Upon pulling out of the 14th street station, I noticed three guys setting themselves up with djembes. Unsure if this would be worth unplugging for, I waited with one earbud intact. It took only seconds for me to see these weren’t some guys just pounding on bongos…they were the real deal! My view was slightly obscured (damn center pole!), but it didn’t matter. I didn’t need to see the show.
I felt it.
There’s a very special place in my heart for the djembe- it created the soundscape on our walk down the wedding aisle. To me – there’s no other instrument that speaks so directly to the soul. And on this journey from 14th street to West 4th I felt the pulse of the drum work its magic. My body, cleared of all the extraneous stuff (thoughts, plans, stress, and miscellaneous clutter), felt lighter.
I got connected.
Now, please remember this was NYC’s mass transit! As I’m sure you know or can imagine…there isn’t much connection happening here. Unless it’s the F train transfer at Broadway / Lafayette. Or the nudging from a bulging briefcase into the back. Or the slight shove as someone races to make their exit. There’s rarely eye contact. And hardly an excuse me.
These djembe guys cut through subway mores. They left us smiling. One lady applauded.
If this can happen on the F train, imagine the power it can have with a movement practice. I invite you to put on some djembe beats and find your flow.
Try this on for size…
What music or instruments can always call you into your dance?
I heart my yoga studio, I really do. But sometimes the packed classes filled with sweaty bodies breathing allover my mat make me feel a wee bit claustrophobic.
I usually know better then to turn up for the Saturday 11am aka Prime Time yoga. Yes, there was a sub that day. But she’s a pro who fills her own classes to capacity several times a week. Normally I can get myself to the 9:15, but with all the holiday hoopla — me and the fam have slipped into the late sched. Which left me waiting by the door for the 11am.
The last time I was in this situation — the 11am on a Saturday — I left class early. I couldn’t take the steaminess compiled with the lack of air as everyone sorted out their Ujjayi breath. With not a crack in the window, or slight breeze from the ceiling fan, I got light headed, dizzy. Oh, and my discomfort hit a new high when my neighbors sweat started to drip on my mat.
I vowed that this time would be different. I had a strategy. I would hone in on my practice, relax into the breath and stay with the uneasiness of the situation. Basically, I’d keep the yoga alive for the full 90 minutes of class.
Here is how I did that:
In a situation where the studio floor becomes wall to wall mats (seriously — it gets like this!), I prefer to keep my vision on the cool trinkets adorning the flower-filled alter rather than the rows of downward dogs in front of me. There’s also a window in the front of the studio which I could escape to if necessary.
Moving slow not only helped keep me from overheating, it also allowed me to tune into a deeper level of breathing. It didn’t matter if I was a pace behind the rest of the class. I knew I could catch up if need be…although that’s not really the point of my practice these days.
I learned this as a meditation technique…the almost shut-eye gaze (there must be a proper name for this, right?). If I looked around at the packed house, the claustrophobia may have crept in. By keeping my eyes either closed or almost closed I could keep the focus inward. (Or on the cool trinkets adorning the alter. And the really nice light fixtures. And out the window, and into the other apartments across the way.)
I’m proud to say that this strategy worked — I stayed in the room! But there were moments when I faltered into distraction. Like when my neighbor on the right raised her hand over my face in an extended side angle variation– she was wearing the sweetest, most delicately fine ring I’d ever seen.
Then there was the moment in arm balances, when my neighbor on the other side slid off his arms, directly onto my mat — sweat drippings and all.
But I brought it back. I rekindled my practice. And refound the yoga.
PS**It was time I gave my mat a good wash anyway.
How do you stay in the room when outside circumstances get under your skin?
We’ve had an introduction to the world of daredevils recently. We watched firsthand, people taking their passions, and making it happen — in a crazy kind of way.
Like on 60 minutes the other week there was a bit about the Birdmen. This group of guys who put on Wingsuits and jump off cliffs.
Then there was the group of 10 year old boys at the ice rink who shot themselves full force towards the wall. (I think they were practicing the hockey stop.)
The conversation with G went like this as I tried to explain the daredevil…
“So they’re bad?”
“No, they’re not bad.”
“But they’re devils.”
“Right, they’re daredevils. It’s different than the little red guys with the pitchfork.”
It took several rounds of the above before I could get the point across that the devils she was thinking about don’t really exist. These daredevils are people who go to extremes to pursue their passion.
Then we were back to her saying, “So they’re bad?”
I don’t think they’re bad. The boys at the ice rink were kind of rough- one of them did knock G over, but bad?
And the Birdmen, well they’re not bad either. They’re intense. Some have died doing this jump.
I am all for pursuing a passion. But going to an extreme to do it?
They’ve got to be responsible.
What are your thoughts on daredevils?
Remember when Beyoncé shocked the world with her big secret?
No, not the new visual album.
She introduced us to Sasha Fierce — the name of the woman she becomes when she performs.
Ladybug Girl does this too.
In her regular day to day she’s just Lulu. But in order to live more freely (and save the world), she turns into Ladybug Girl.
I get this.
The need to create a different identity in order to fully express
the uncomfortable vulnerably. (Um, hello Tamina?)
But in order to fulfill the authentic self, don’t these identities need to merge?
The answer is YES!
Even Beyoncé agrees. She puts it like this:
I think Yonce is Beyonce. Mrs. Carter is Yonce. Sasha Fierce is Yonce and I’m finally at a place where, as I said earlier, I don’t have to kind of separate the two anymore. We’re all one. It’s all pieces of me and just different elements of a personality of a woman because we are complicated.
Perhaps the alter ego upkeep gets to be too much.
So then David Whyte makes perfect sense when he wrote:
The antidote to exhaustion is not rest but wholeheartedness.
What’s your secret to authentic expression?
M & G have been begging to hit the ice skating rink, so today was the day. Ice skating isn’t my fave…I’m too much of a wimp in the cold, but I’d much rather be in the rink then sitting it out on the sidelines.
Here’s who else went for an Xmas skate:
This group shuffles around the edge of the rink, clinging to the side-rail, taking baby steps all the way. They’re not in control of their legs which is why they move at a snail’s pace. Without the wall there would be no ice skating for them.
The Playin’ It Safe’ers
These skaters move away from the wall. They’re comfortable on the ice, yet don’t try anything new. They just glide by.
The Go For The Flow Peeps
It’s not about experience with this group. They’re out there, in the center of the rink, giving it their all. When they fall, they fall big. But they’re in it to win it…they’re there to have fun.
The Show Your Soul’ers
This group is similar to the Go For The Flow Peeps except they’ve mastered the skill of ice skating, and transformed it into an expression of the soul. I love watching them float on ice.
**Both M & G started as Wall-Crawlers, but eventually graduated to becoming Go For The Flow Peeps. I had my proud mom moment when G says, “It’s good to fall because it means you’re trying.”
How do you do on the ice skating rink?