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In this post from last year, I wrote candidly about my lifelong dance partner. It’s a love-hate relationship: He’s too clingy, he’s too wild, he weighs me down, yet he also adds another dimension to my dance, he’s always in synchrony with my steps, and he’s just so gosh-darn strawberry-blonde beautiful.
Don’t expect my partner to appear on Dancing With the Stars anytime soon, though: I’m talking about my hair, of course.
Although there’s a 99% chance that by the end of a 5Rhythms or other movement class I will have unfastened whatever tool is holding my hair in place, most days I prefer to begin the practice with some kind of mane management. Letting my locks loose usually happens in the Chaos portion of class (naturally!), but until then I’d rather not to be eating my hair, which is what happens when I’m flowing to and fro…especially during the colder months when that oh-so-sticky static electricity steps in.
As if on cue—as fall is steadily creeping toward winter—I was recently contacted by Washington, DC-based Shaune Bazner Accessories, who invited me to test out and review the company’s Mei Fa® Hairstyx, essentially fancy beaded wooden chopsticks with a trademarked shape designed to hold any type of hair in place.
I was impressed with the vast collection of sleek, beaded accoutrements available for purchase but had my doubts about their functionality, even after watching the step-by-step online tutorial. Not on my hair, I thought. Even the biggest plastic claw clip (named “The Octopus” for crying out loud) can’t hold my lion’s mane in place during a brisk walk, let alone dancing, so I didn’t expect much from two slender pieces of wood.
When the package arrived in the mail, I was perplexed. Inside was a lovely handwritten note from Shaune Bazner herself, but the cute aqua-colored case that held the to-be-reviewed product was a bit…tiny. And so were the sticks!
Now, I eat sushi on a regular basis, so I am quite familiar with chopsticks. These were nowhere near traditional chopstick length, and my first reaction was that the company had sent me the wrong size (a “shorties” style is available for shorter hair lengths). But after double-checking online, I had been proven wrong: The sticks I had received were 4 3/8 inches long, the size that claims to work on medium, thick, layered, curly, frizzy, and shoulder-length or longer hair.
Now I really had my doubts. I mean, most barrettes don’t even clasp shut over my hair, and even reinforced elastic bands eventually start to slide when I spin, resulting in droopy ponytails or braids.
…OK, so by now you know where this going, right?
Yeah, the sticks worked.
Mei fa is the Chinese phrase for “beautiful hair” or “beautiful method,” but it might as well stand for “magic wand.” (Come to think of it, they almost do remind me of something Harry, Hermione, and friends would find in Ollivanders Wand Shop!)
This isn’t to say the experience was trouble free. Using the sticks took practice, even after watching the online video and reviewing the written instructions that came with the product. The illustrations were on the small side, and I had to squint at them repeatedly before figuring out the exact placement. For example, when trying to style a knot/bun, it took me a while to figure out that the sticks are to be inserted in only a small section at the top of the bun, when I kept wanting to plunge the stick through the entire, thick upper half.
Also, both the video and written instructions emphasize that the sticks are to slide through the bun, not under it. Yet, it took me forever to grasp this concept, I think just because it makes sense to want to go under the hair—to cradle it—rather than cut straight through center. Listen to the instructions, people: Go through for the ‘do. Otherwise the sticks get too close to the neck, and they’ll be poking your nape every time you turn your head.
Granted, I am not the most dexterous woman. While I can make a pigtail braid perfectly on my left side, I have thumb-less spaghetti hands when braiding on my right side. That said, it’s no surprise I occasionally struggle getting one of the sticks in. There was a learning curve for me, and now that I’ve had time to practice, I think the best technique is just to not think so much. Like the woman in this video: Just stick it, don’t scrutinize! (She has super-long hair, too!)
The real test came when I started dancing with the sticks. They were pleasantly secure while wearing them around the office and taking brisk walks (an occasional loosening here and there, but only because I hadn’t inserted them properly), but again, I doubted their functionality on the dance floor.
Again, I was proven wrong. As long as I had inserted them correctly, the sticks stayed put, even after throwing in a few test pirouettes and chainé turns. If I began to feel the sticks become loose, all I had to do was push them in slightly, and then they were back in place. This usually occurred after a long sequence of spins and head-whipping, or if I moved down to the floor and had my hair pressed against the ground. (In fact, that’s the one time the sticks become slightly uncomfortable, during supine positions. I could feel the wood against my head, and usually after that, the sticks would begin to slip out.)
As expected, the sticks began to fall out during the more wild dance moves of Chaos. But that’s usually the point I allow my hair to get funky and loose anyway, so I don’t see it as a huge drawback. I would just want to be prepared and take the sticks out ahead of time, because otherwise it becomes a bit of a hazard, sticks flying out on a dance floor.
After many initial doubts and a few days of experimentation, I have to say I am a fan of the Mei Fa Hairstyx. Even my dental hygienist was amazed! (“You mean to tell me those two little sticks were holding up all that hair?!”) I used them in both dry (light) and wet (way heavier) hair, and they worked the same in both conditions.
During the day, I almost always wear my hair up, and so I like the versatility of the sticks—you can make more than just buns! And there are so many styles available, beads of all shapes, sizes, and color. I’m generally not a fancy up-do kind of gal, so having these for a wedding or holiday party would look so much better than a giant black octopus claw that I have to replace every 10 minutes.
And of course, they make dancing much less stressful. Even if I have to readjust the sticks here and there, it’s relatively easy, and—perhaps the most important part—I’m not damaging my hair in the process. I lose so much hair when constantly taking out and re-looping a rubber band—not just breaking strands, but yanking them out. I haven’t experienced any tearing yet with the Hairstyx, and another bonus: No headband-induced headaches!
Shaune Bazner Accessories has offered to provide a set of Mei Fa Hairstyx to one lucky reader. I chose the “Enhance” style; comment below which style you would choose…and what song you’d dance to while wearing them!
Commenting will close on Friday, December 7 at 12 p.m. (EST). U.S. addresses only, please! Winner will be selected at random.
Disclaimer: I received no compensation for this review, other than the product itself to test. The opinions expressed are mine alone and were not influenced by any other persons or company.
Five years ago on this day, it is Practice Teach #2. Da-da-dummmmmmm!
After our personal sadhana, the adventure begins. The staff had already assigned us numbers; I was #3, to teach at 1:30 p.m. Blah. I was really all prepared to go in the morning. G. went first, then came lunch. I ate way too fast, but I did run into [yoga teacher from home] in the buffet line. We didn’t have time to talk much, but we hugged and it was a comfort to see a familiar face. Carrot ginger soup, salad, studying. Twenty-five minutes on the treadmill listening to Alias music and “What a Feeling” from Flashdance. Confidence booster. My facilitator turns out to be Danny, who wears pink toenail polish.
I don’t remember (again) much about my class. I remember joking about the Reuben sandwiches served at lunch and how we wouldn’t be doing wind-relieving pose or bow. I was definitely better prepared than last time, but it still felt weird, a new pair of shoes. But is IS a new pair of shoes. I’m not used to being a teacher. It is a new pair of shoes. I felt good in the moment but kind of hazy afterward. What just happened? Were my transitions too choppy? Did I make the students hold the posture too long while I talked? I forgot the lateral side stretch in my pratapana! I didn’t have a cool-down pose between warrior and savasana! But my languaging was on, everyone appreciated my foot rubs in savasana, and I felt confident during the class itself. I just feel confused now. Does this feel weird because of the clipboards? The constant chatter? The incessant noise and distraction, the sardine-type environment? When it’s over, I’m relieved but mentally foggy.
J. closes our practice, and then we had yet another sadhana with Ray. Ray was awesome but unfortunately I had hit rock bottom. I don’t think I’ve ever been so tired in a yoga class, even those at 6:30 a.m. We did a ton of forward bends and downdogs, and my eyes felt like they were going to pop out of my head. I’ve never had such a weak triangle and wobbly warrior II. I conked out somewhere between plank and half-shoulderstand and sunk into savasana. It’s a shame, because I think he was saying some great stuff, but I was just gone. No yoga nidra for me–just sleep.
We have a beautiful, beautiful evening in Shadowbrook with singer/songwriter Linda Worster. We spread out blankets and cushions and form a massage clinic, a 10- to 12-minutes massage per person, as Linda sings intimate, melodic songs to us. Candles at the altar, Shiva at the helm, Linda on guitar, and a whole lotta TLC all over the room. I massage H. and M. and then they work on me, me sinking into samadhi. These people, these complete strangers, now together in a deep sense of respect and love, nearly crying at the beauty of the moment.
After the massages, we set up the backjacks for a concert, laughing at Linda’s songs about her cat and travel buddies. When the songs get slow, Megha disappears to the back of the room to dance, eloquent lyrical dancing. I can’t stop myself. I must dance too! Must dance! Soft lyrical music. Dance! Slowly, I step into Stage 3 movement, a combination of both wonderful music and wonderful company. How much more can I ask for? Santosha.
So it’s been about one week since I left my happy place.
Not gonna lie…it hasn’t been easy. Despite this being my 12th trip to Walt Disney World (and 13th Disney trip, if you count last year’s Disneyland), I still come home with a bad case of PDD (post-Disney depression) that leaves me unable to watch Disney commercials or listen to Disney music for a solid month without immediately tearing up. Coming home from vacation is hard enough, but when you’re going from a land of pixie dust and parades and nightly fireworks to, well, New Jersey, it’s slightly more difficult than just returning from a week down the shore.
Because it’s geographically and financially unfeasible to visit my #1 happy place on a regular basis, I’ve spent the past week trying to figure out where my closer-to-home happy places are, places that don’t require airline tickets and a week off from work. They may not include all the bells and whistles (and parades and fireworks) of Disney World, but they make me smile and are my go-to places when I need some everyday magic.
Happy Place #1: My Living Room Floor
Although I absolutely loved our rustic-feeling hotel room at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge, it was very tight on space and I had little room to do my morning/evening stretches and wake-up routine. Sun salutations took place in the narrow entrance way between the bathroom and the closet, and to do viparita karani (legs on the wall) at night (a necessity after days of walking anywhere from 8 to 16 miles), I had to squeeze myself between the TV cabinet and table, the only wall space available.
At home, the living room floor is my stretching oasis, the place I go to every morning to twist and stretch and rock and roll. I can do downdogs and warriors without banging my hands into the wall or on the ceiling lamp, and I can lie on the floor in cobra without being skeeved out about who (or what) was on the carpet before me.
In addition, my living room allows me the space to DANCE!
Happy Place #2: Poang Chairs
When I’m not dancing or rolling around in my living room, I’m seated comfortably in one of our IKEA Poang chairs, in front of the TV.
I’m not particularly a fan of the boob-tube, but I do love our Netflix subscription that allows us to watch streaming shows and movies via our Nintendo Wii system.
Instead of watching TV shows in real-time, Bryan and I have instead been plowing through entire series of shows through Netflix streaming. That way we don’t have to wait weeks in-between episodes or feel like we lost 6 years of our life if a show ends badly (::coughcoughLOSTcoughcough::). Most recently, we completed the 202 episodes of 24, a series that had us glued to the Poangs for months. I became very attached to the characters and screamed, shouted, and cried along with them. It was a very emotional ending, almost as heart-wrenching as leaving Disney World! Mickey Mouse, Jack Bauer…I love you both!
Netflix is also my source for rare, hard-to-find movies and documentaries. Sure, I’ll watch Tangled the week I return from the World (gotta catch up on my Disney princess knowledge), but this same week I’ve also watched Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead (Christmas is less than 100 days away…juicer, please?!), half of the PBS special Doctors’ Diaries, and–OMG, the cutest movie in the world–Gotta Dance.
Remember that documentary a few years ago, Young @ Heart, the one about the group of seniors who sing contemporary music? Well, this is the same thing…but with DANCE. The movie documents the inaugural season of the NETsationals dance team, a group of 13 seniors ages 59 to 83 who dance hip hip for the New Jersey Nets (in the photo above, their jersey numbers indicate their age). A few had amateur dancing experience (ballroom, tap), some had danced recreationally, and none had ever done hip hop before. These folks are living proof that age is just a number and old dogs CAN learn new tricks. Heartwarming, uplifting, inspirational…this movie a shot of the warm and fuzzy feel-goods without the overly sappy chicken noodle soup for the soul. I stood on my feet and applauded the TV during their first live performance! I could watch this again and again–and probably will.
Happy Place #3: Red Bank Battlefield
I am fortunate to live near several parks (all very nice, too!), but my favorite by far is Red Bank. It’s a national park, so it’s well kept and clean; it attracts a lot of cute older couples (I once witnessed an older husband and wife unwrap a particularly challenging Werther’s Original candy together); and, being directly across the Delaware River from the Philly airport, there are PLANES! Lots of them! As I’ve written again and again, I am obsessed with plane watching. I will say I don’t care, but then I’ll hear the roar of a jet engine, and immediately my eyes go to the sky. I’m particularly fond of Southwest jets (one, they represent our transportation to Florida; two, they are the most colorful of the liveries), cargo jets (HUUUUGE!), and planes that are taking off in my direction.
Sometimes I’ll go to the park before work (quiet and peaceful), other times after work (more traffic but interesting characters), and sometimes on the weekend with Bryan for reading-under-a-tree time. A loop around the park is a little over a mile, and nowadays you can almost always spot a deer or three, which have become acclimated to human beings and don’t even bat an eyelash when you’re walking their way. The other morning I walked past six deer (including two males with giant antlers), one only inches from me!
It’s a good thing I appreciate the solitude of the park in the morning, because soon that’s the only time I’ll be able to go; the park closes at sunset, and as I much as I pray that it won’t happen, there will come a time this year that I leave work and it’s dark out. Where to go when my Disney World closes at dusk?!
So those are my non-Disney World happy places, accessible within minutes. If I’m willing to drive a little longer and pack a few more things, next on the list are (a) my gym, for a solo swimming session; (b) the yoga studio, for a 5Rhythms class; and (c) the Jersey shore!
What places do you return to when you need some magic?
To live without pain or dance without soul?
One component of my job is to keep abreast about all the latest goings-on in the field of psychological/psychiatric research (a) so we can include news briefs of the most interesting developments in our publication and (b) so I don’t sound like an idiot when I’m talking to our contributors. Most press releases that come my way seem to be generated by Captain Obvious (“Women Who Experience Gender-Based Violence Have Higher Incidence of Anxiety”), but every now and then along comes something eyebrow-raising, like this: “Drug May Help Overwrite Bad Memories.”
According to a Canadian study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, recalling painful memories while taking the drug metyrapone can reduce the brain’s ability to re-record the negative emotions associated with them (Explanation: manipulating cortisol close to the time of forming new memories can decrease the negative emotions that may be associated with them). The press release goes on to explain the study procedure:
The study included 33 men who learned a story composed of neutral and negative events. After 3 days they were divided into three groups: Participants in the first group received a single dose of metyrapone, the second received a double dose, and the third were given placebo. They were then asked to remember the story. Their memory performance was evaluated again 4 days later, once the drug had cleared out. The researchers found that the men in the group who received two doses of metyrapone were impaired when recalling the negative events of the story, while they showed no impairment recalling the neutral parts of the story.
For those not quite ready for a quick prescription of eternal sunshine of the spotless mind, good news: Metyrapone is no longer commercially produced.
But what if it were? What if that magic pill did exist, and all of the pain and angst of your past could be deleted? Would you take it?
The press release above is actually a few months old, but I started thinking about it again last night as I was watching So You Think You Can Dance, as contestants Melanie and Sasha were talking about where they find the emotion that drives their intensely powerful movement. Sasha, after performing in a duet about manipulation and abuse, alluded to “having been hurt” in the past. Melanie, in tears, talked about her deceased father, physically in tears as she began one of the most achingly eloquent solos of the competition.
If these girls were to have taken that magic drug, would such beautiful art even exist?
So often in yoga or Eastern religion discourse, we are taught that the past is the past. Acknowledge it and move on. Yet, isn’t it in those times of deep contemplation and reminiscence that the most powerful works of art emerge? My god, if everyone who suffered a broken heart erased that memory from their brains, the world would be devoid of some of the best ballads, poetry, paintings, orchestrations, and ballets.
There are periods of my life I’d like to forget. I’ll be going about with my day fine and dandy when BOOM! Well, hello bad memory! I didn’t see you coming, and to tell you truth, you have made me quite angry/sad/confused.
It’s not pleasant getting socked off-guard by icky thoughts of the past, yet at the same time it is that unease that has given depth to my dance and writing. I was a talented writer in my youth, but only to an extent. I was young; my words lacked experience. How can one write poetry about the injustices of life when you are only 14 and have lived a comfortable existence? All I cared about then was the skeleton, the technique: that lines rhymed and the meter stuck. It is the same with dance; I was a dedicated dance student through grade school but little emotion came through in my high hitch kicks and straddle jumps. I was good at dancing–I remembered routines and could execute them gracefully–but the flesh of my bare-bones dancing took years to develop.
No amount of master classes or instruction videos could give me the depth that real life–love, loss, betrayal, redemption–brought forth to my movement. Every misstep I took or misfortune that was thrust upon me made me weak in that moment but stronger for the future. Events that brought me to my knees and hurt so badly that I didn’t even care about dancing anymore–surprise!–today have only made my dancing richer and more three-dimensional. And without a doubt, my dancing 10, 20, 30 years from now won’t be the same as it is today. It’s a bit cruel that by the time we reach an age of such wisdom and experience–a time when our dancing would reflect decades of memories–our bodies are breaking down. If only an 80-year-old could dance in an 18-year-old’s body!
(Returning to the memory-erasing drug, though, I should note that the investigators conducted the study mostly with people with posttraumatic stress disorder in mind; we’re talking soldiers, victims of horrific crimes, etc, not people trying to recover from a bad break-up. Although painful memories may add depth to artistic endeavors, I am not advocating that veterans who have witnessed their friends perish in a land mine hang onto those memories in the name of art.)
As Thais recently noted in her blog, traumas need to be released:
If we do not consciously work through our traumas and release the caught up energy in our bodies, that force is going to come out one way or another. Some it’s by a physical illness, others it’s by addictions or eating disorders. Just look at the world around you, nothing good comes out of compression. Finding that release valve is what keeps us sane. Some may find release through dance, sports, yoga, therapy, etc. It’s important to find the right activity for you and your body.
So, now, comes the million-dollar question: Do you take the magic pill…or do you dance?
I am a creature of habit, so sometimes abandoning routine and “going with the flow” makes me feel like I’m walking into headwind.
(Even now, as I write this, I am eating my usual morning bowl of oats, the same thing I eat every.single.Sunday. Sometimes, even when I’m craving eggs and waffles, I’ll still eat my oatmeal out of fear of “missing my oatmeal.” *tear*)
This past week, though, I found myself falling into the flow more than once–and it actually turned out OK.
It started on Wednesday, which is usually my swimming day. I leave work, drive to the gym, change into my Speedo, and do laps for half an hour. However, that afternoon my right arm started acting up, probably from working on the computer all day, repeatedly clicking away on my mouse as I SpellChecked an entire journal issue. From my neck to my wrist it was tingling, and by the end of the workday I was concerned that swimming would exacerbate the arm. But…but…it was Wednesday! It’s my swimming day! My bathing suit and towel were in the trunk of my car, ready to go.
I took some deep breaths. I contemplated: Swimming is one of the few workout outlets I have at this point. You bust your shoulder, you’re out.
I listened to logic and followed the flow back to my house.
At home, I did a 30-minute complex workout taken from the new issue of Experience Life magazine (one of the best healthy living mags out there, IMO). Afterward, I fiddled with Grooveshark and accessed some trancey music from Maneesh de Moor, falling into free dance for a solid 20 minutes. Flowing like that felt great after the weight routine, and I got so into it that–out of nowhere–I started vocalizing my movements, as though I were leading a JourneyDance class. My eyes closed, and I pretended I had bodies behind me, their arms moving like taffy, following my guidance. I had no intention of breaking out into teacher mode like that, but I just kept working with it, flowing.
I felt pretty good the next day at work, so much that at one point I spoke up to our editorial director about something I thought could be changed with our procedures. I saw room for change, and instead of just sitting back and saying, “Well, that’s what we’ve always done,” I voiced my opinion and suggestions for improvement. “That’s not a bad idea,” she said. “I’ll have to talk it over with [Big Boss].” Woah!
By the end of the day, I was facing a situation similar to Wednesday’s. I was supposed to go to kundalini class that evening, but I had been sitting all day (it was downpouring all day, so I wasn’t able to take my usual lunch walk), and my butt, hip, and legs ached. Sometimes the majority of a kundalini class is sitting, and I so wasn’t looking forward to 75 more minutes of being on my rear. But…it was kundalini day! Once again, I had to deliberate the options. And again, I abandoned routine and decided to go with the flow, instead driving to the hot yoga studio for a 90-minute vinyasa class. The constant movement felt great for my whole body, and the heat was CRANKED up that night, at one point reaching 106. I think it was the sweatiest, most disgusting I’ve ever been, but I felt freakin’ fabulous. During savasana, the teacher bent down and did a little Thai yoga massage on my legs, gently rocking them back and forth. It was the first savasana “adjustment” I’ve received in ages, and I was touched that she thought of me and my creaky hips. In fact, after class she asked if it would be OK for her to do that after every class. Most certainly!
As I was about to leave the yoga studio, I passed the mini-fridge that houses the coconut water for sale. In the past, if I wanted coconut water I brought my own, because of course the studio marks it up. But all I had was plain water that night, and after such a sweaty, exhausting class, I could practically hear my cells plea for electrolytes. And, although I’ve bypassed that fridge now for almost a year, that night I got the money out of my pocket and paid for an overpriced carton of coconut water. I chugged it down like a frat boy with a beer can, and damn, it hit the spot.