Thursday, July 09, 2009

Yoga in the 'Hood

I've been a consistent yoga practitioner since 2004, when I started taking advantage of the cheap yoga classes offered to NYU students through their recreation program. It was affordable, convenient, and helped me re-build and re-shape my body after going through a number of surgeries. As time went on, I began to develop, what I like to call "yoga hunger,": wanting to go to class all the time, searching for the"best" teachers and studios, constantly wanting to do more challenging poses, basically pumping up my ego. After a few years of that, and a number of serious injuries, I made my way to the Integral Yoga Institute, where I learned to slow down and let go of some of that ego-enthusiasm.

At some point, I was introduced to Ellen Saltonstall, a certified Anusara teacher, by my bodyworker. Ellen has been my primary teacher for the last two years, and I've done Anusara and a bit of Iyengar, exclusively since 2007. Because they are both alignment-based, I've been able to sharpen my practice and also relax into it and not worry so much about looking "gorgeous," but really learn whatever it is I'm supposed to learn in that practice session.I've also been able to develop a strong home practice, however, in the last moth, I've really struggled with practicing at home. More often than not, I've done a truncated practice, or not practiced at all. And especially since my teacher is traveling to teach a lot this summer, I thought I'd better look around for some classes.

I really didn't want to go to the City. I've been becoming more and more interested in finding as many of the services I need right in my 'hood of Fort Greene (or nearby 'hoods: Clinton Hill, Bed-Stuy, Prospect Heights, Park Slope, or Cobble Hill/Carroll Gardens/Brooklyn Heights). Farmer's Market on Saturdays, dog park every morning, my CSA is in the City, :(, local shops and restaurants, but what about a yoga studio? My main focus has been on finding Anusara studios, but there are none in my area and sometimes I don't want to get on a bus, train or walk to another part of Brooklyn. I recently had a conversation with a dog-park friend who alerted me to the incredible sale Move with Grace was having.

When I went in to sign up, Owner Grace Tappin, was friendly, warm, helpful and absolutely welcoming. I gave her my $30 for 30 days unlimited classes(!!!) and returned that night for an Open Vinyasa class. Let me preface by saying, I am not a fan of Vinyasa classes, nor am I a fan of using music in a yoga class. However, the small studio itself was clean, beautiful and very relaxed and relaxing. It was an incredible experience to take a yoga class of all black women (save the teacher, who was white), when usually I am the only one in the class. Moreover, I am supporting the local economy, reducing my carbon footprint, actually doing yoga, and supporting a young, black, female entrepreneur. Wins all around!

I'm looking forward to taking the Iyengar class on Sundays and the new Iyengar classes Grace let me know they will be adding. For me, since I have some injuries, alignment-based yoga is the best, and it fits my style, but it was nice to feel invigorated by last night's class, even if that will not be my regular practice. Move with Grace has a wide variety of classes (if not yoga styles) and other types of movement classes, such as Ballet for Adults and Belly dancing! Fun!

I also think I've been infected by the fallacy that only the City has good studios. This is particularly false when many of the great and good teachers training or being trained live in Brooklyn. As my schedule changes significantly in the fall, it will be good to be able to pop down the street, pay $10 for a class, and walk home and cook dinner. So, if you live in Fort Greene, Clinton Hill, or Bed-Stuy, you should check out Move with Grace. They also give discounts to college and university students and money off class packages if you sign up online.

If anyone knows any studios that offer Anusara or Iyengar classes in the FG/CH/BS area, let me know.

Holla! and Namaste.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

The Dyke of Beauty

I've been thinking a lot about my relationship to beauty--specifically beautiful women. It's been a bit of an experiment, really. As I've been easing back into the dating world these last six months or so, I've noticed my responses to women who find me attractive, or vice versa, seem stuck somewhere in awkward adolescence. It's made me curious about the "oh gosh darn it miss" vibe I sometimes give off, as well as how beauty is determined from the vantage point of a woman who loves woman.

Scene 1: We're in the club, some great summer banger is playing, maybe "No Letting Go," most likely, "Boom Boom Pow" and you know how the gays do, one hand up in the air, sexy hips shaking, a little peek of the hip bones...nice. So a fly Nicaraguan shortie approaches me, kicks a bit of game and I am smiling, whispering in her ear, letting her hands slide down to grasps each hip, encouraging her to explore...but of course, I'm looking at the other ladies, feeling there is something missing, something more, someone who when I see her, I will know...

The next day I reflected on my tension and lack of casualness at the West Village/Chelsea club. It's not like I really think I will meet the love of my life out at the club, but there's a certain level of posturing and manufactured desire that nightclubs are designed to produce. and silly, sometimes adolescent me falls for it.

Scene 2: I'm walking down Myrtle Avenue, on my way to the organic health food store and an older West Indian gentleman stops me to tell me how fine and chocolate-y I am. He relates, in his gorgeous, lilting accent, how he told his friend I ride a bike to "look as fine and sexy as ya do." I told him, "no, I do yoga," and we proceeded to talk about his daughter's (who is older than me!) yoga studio in the 'hood. He was delightful, we speak every time we see one another, and I felt really happy about our interaction.

It took me a long time to relate to compliments and attention from men. Sometimes I was intimated, sometimes I would be enraged or feel oppressed, other times, I was simply baffled ("can't they see how GAY I am??"), and still other times, I manipulated and lead them on in order to feel good about myself--in order to feel confident with women. Now, I feel grateful. Physical beauty is a gift. I know being someone who is considered attractive makes my life easier. I know my ability to pass makes my life easier. I am no longer so arrogant or ungrateful as to dismiss genuine attempts to be kind to me, or get my attention, or to be seen by me. I know what it feels like to want to be seen and I know how to handle dudes who get out of line.

I was never the pretty one in elementary, middle or high school. It wasn't until college that I really came into my own. As a matter of fact, It wasn't until I started experimenting with my gender presentation that I started to feel "beautiful." I'm not sure how that worked, but somehow, when I wore my ridiculously large JNCO jeans and skater sneakers, schoolboy sweater and matching Giants cap, I felt beautiful. I also felt protected. My body wasn't on display, yet it was in a way. I was alluding to what was underneath through an unisex fashion sense. At that time, I identified as a "girl fag," feeling like my femininity was exaggerated, playful, fierce and diva-like, just like the gay men who I loved growing up had taught me. But I didn't feel my femininity was embodied, and certainly not biological.

Lately, I've been playing with drag: One day I was doing high femme diva bitch during the summer (let me tell you, I was hit on by some strange parts of the NYC demographic); next was schoolboy realness (omg! I was so cute with my backpack, khaki shorts, polo shirt and glasses); and lately I've been feeling sporty femme 80's retro--big high tops, fat laces, neon colors, tight jeans and tight shirts. There is something being liberated in me that I haven't totally formulated or conceptualized, I am simply experiencing it with a tremendous amount of excitement and energy. being queer for me, has always been incredibly complex, but it's always been honest. I feel as though, for a time, I moved away from being queerly fierce, as though there was something juvenile about that, something undignified and regressive. I've found that my queerness thrives mostly when I am free to experiment with how I want to be in the world, when I am not blindly falling into the trappings of hetero- or homonormativity.

So, I'm just observing: how am I when I'm kicking it to women? Is my confidence or sense or worth swayed by who's interested in me? Am I really that shallow? I have to say though, I'm having the more genuine fun then I've had in years.

Femme Diva

school boy realness