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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.

it
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.

Mei Fa catalog
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.

Scary hair clip!

Scary hair clip!

Long hair
Challenge accepted!

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!

Mei Fa caseMei Fa sticks and book
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!)

Mei Fa back

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.

Mei fa instructions
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.

Mei fa profile
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.

Several weeks ago I was contacted by a rep from Beachbody, asking if I’d be interested in voluntarily browsing through some of the company’s in-development products. I really dragged my feet on this one, mostly because, personally, I have no interest in the company’s existing catalog.

There’s no doubt that Beachbody’s products (e.g., P90X, Insanity) are wildly popular and effective, but for someone like me who is trying hard to explore more of the “mind” and “spirit” elements of the mind-body-spirit trifecta (aaaaand who has a torn hip labrum), the notion of groaning and grunting my way through something titled “The Asylum” seemed to fall just slightly beyond my boundaries of comfort.

(No offense to Beachbody sensation Shaun T., a fellow Rowan University alum. I’ll admit it’s kinda cool to see someone you danced with in college rise to fitness stardom.)

However, of the three Beachbody programs in the pipeline that came into my inbox, there was one that stood out for me:

Tai Cheng

I clicked the link cautiously, afraid that what I hoped was going to be somehow related to tai chi would actually end up being some sweaty, teeth-grinding hybrid of my beloved low-impact martial art and, say, the muscle-ripping CrossFit.

I was pleasantly surprised. One of the first quotes on the website’s accompanying video, from who I am assuming is Beachbody CEO Carl Daikeler, is “What about training that’s NOT about extreme?”

Not extreme? You mean no veins pulsing through my forehead, no teeth gnashing? My interest was piqued.

Daikeler went on to tell an anecdote about his father, who had hip replacement surgery. “I had nothing in our catalog I could provide to him,” he confessed. With that concern in mind, Daikeler aimed to develop a program that both seasoned athletes and once-sedentary individuals or those recovering from injury could benefit from, a program using one of the oldest fitness regimens in the world: tai chi.

As Daikeler spoke, Tai Cheng’s namesake/creator Dr. Mark Cheng–a martial arts master trainer, traditional Chinese medicine practitioner, and physical therapy-based corrective exercise expert–demonstrated the Yang style of tai chi in the foreground. His movement was utterly hypnotic and dance-like. My first reaction was, “I wanna move like him, sign me up now!” I know I’m only in the sixth week of my own weekly tai chi class, but I had this silly impression that I moved with grace. Then I saw Cheng’s demonstration, and now I feel more like a cactus tumbling through a sandstorm than seaweed dancing through water, which is what Cheng appears to be.

I like that Beachbody is promoting this program for a full spectrum of fitness abilities and not stereotypically equating tai chi with older or less active individuals (Daikeler reports that his focus groups included people ages 18 to 80). The videos here are short snippets about how Tai Cheng can benefit Insanity, P90X, and TurboFire fans, as well as everyday gals like me who want to move with precision, grace, and control, while also reaping the mind-calming effects of the ancient martial art. Soundbytes that stood out for me in the introductory video were “developing exquisite control in proprioception” and “better stability, better control, and better performance.” Sounds a little like yoga, huh?

Tai Cheng is slated to become available sometime in this first quarter of 2012, and while I am impressed with the product and commend Beachbody for expanding its demographics, this isn’t to say I’m going to follow through and invest in it. I am a much better student when part of a live class, and unless I’m trying to soothe a backache through Viniyoga, DVDs just aren’t my thing. I feel a bit ADD when standing in front of a TV screen, and since Tai Cheng is a comprehensive 90-day “program,” it is very likely I would never steadily stick to the 3-month plan. However, if it’s something one could do, say, once or twice a week, then perhaps I’ll be more open to the concept. For people who crave routine and a “graduation” from a fitness program, then Tai Cheng could be their theng…err, thang. 🙂

Speaking of tai chi, did you know that Saturday, April 28 is World Tai Chi Day? My sister and I plan to attend an event at a local fitness center that will feature demonstrations and group participation activities, plus some tai chi sword forms!

Note. I was not paid/compensated or asked to write this post and have no vested interest in Beachbody or Tai Cheng.

I blame my friend Jaime for planting the shopping bug in my head. On Friday during our lunchtime walk, she had mentioned the desire to go shopping that afternoon. The notion excited me as well; I’ve been trying to give my credit card a break since Christmas and so the majority of my purchases these past two months have mostly been for gas and groceries.

It wasn’t until I was walking through Philly yesterday afternoon when I started to get the itch…bad. It was a sunny, mild afternoon…I had just come from a really fun dancehall class + postclass meetup (more on that to come!), the streets were full of dog walkers and musicians and happy shiny people, and I just so happened to be walking down one of the trendiest retail districts in the city…and, before I knew it…BAM!

• My heart skipped a beat when I realized that Athleta was in town. They used to be an online-only retailer, and I only knew about them because I have an Old Navy credit card and all of my coupons are also good for the Gap, Banana Republic, and Athleta. When I went to Athleta’s website, I died. It’s like Lululemon but without the cultish undertones and overly wide-eyed salespeople. Beautiful yoga/dance/sporty wear, beautiful dresses, beautiful scarves and tote bags and everything I want my wardrobe to be. Picture a luxury health and wellness cruise to the Bahamas for a surfing lesson with a stop at St. Maarten for some hiking, followed by an on-ship yoga class, a modern dance party at night, and green smoothies for everyone. This is Athleta. I never bought anything online because I don’t trust sizes until I physically try stuff on. Today was that day. I limited myself to only two items, because–just like a luxury health and wellness cruise to the Bahamas–it’s expensive. I got a lightweight gray jacket that I envision myself wearing on those somewhat-chilly May mornings at the farmers market and The Best Pair of Pants in the World. I used to think L.L. Bean’s Perfect Fit Pants held that title, but they have now met their competition.

• On the left are some duds from City Sports, which I had never been to before either. I tried on a lot of things, and most looked great but, seriously, how many pairs of black yoga capris do I really need? (Even though I swear they all feel different and carry a story of their own, but Bryan will never understand this.) So I skipped the pricey capris and opted for pricey prAna instead; that would be the pair of black pants on the left. But they are full-length pants with a little flowing skirt attached. I saw those pants, and they whispered to me: “5Rhythms.” As did the purple shirt on top, which luckily was on clearance. It’s a relaxed fit, longish lightweight hooded shirt that has the perfect amount of give for a 5Rhythms class. The Toesox are also intended for 5Rhythms, mostly for the classes in Princeton in which the floor is always somewhat slippery. I do own a pair of Gaiam yoga socks, but I felt like the rubber nubs on the Toesox were a bit more durable and hardier.

• The other half of my City Sports loot is on the right, but it’s all swimming stuff: a pair of hand paddles so I can work on my stroke technique, a Lycra cap that won’t tear out my hair, and a nose clip so I can declare myself Geek of the Pool (and do flip turns without inhaling nasty pool water all the time).

• A trip to Center City isn’t complete with a stop at the Rittenhouse Barnes & Noble, where I picked up a new magazine (for me) to give a shot: Spirituality & Health. Something I flipped through but did not buy was this:

You know how there’s always some creepy dude sitting in the corner of B&N flipping through a girly magazine? OMG, I was that guy but my p*rn was a periodical about Boeing 777s. What is my problem?? I can’t help it; I love planes!

• Finally, with nothing in my stomach since a Clif Builder bar at 2 p.m. (and now it was going on 8), I stopped at Fuel for dinner to go. The Hulk juice (spinach, cucumber, lemon, and apple) was a refreshing companion for the train ride back to Jersey, and I devoured the Fuel Stacker panini like a ravenous bear once I got home. It was one of the best sandwiches I’ve had in a while: portabello, eggplant, zucchini, squash, tomato, house-made mozzarella, and pesto. The fresh mozzarella was the key ingredient; I’m so used to a slab of deli cheese on my sandwiches that the gooey white blob protruding from the wheat bread was a welcome sight. I urge Fuel to come to the other side of the river soon…this girl can’t afford to always go into the city for a decent sandwich!

Did you indulge in any retail therapy this weekend? Alternatively, tell me what classifies as your Best Pants in the World!

One of the things that helps keeps my hip pain (from a labral tear) under control is my commitment to icing it after vigorous activity, whether the area hurts or not. I don’t intentionally do things that would cause great harm to the hip (such as running or sinking into a split), but because my femur head has a tendency to rub against the torn cartilage, things like long walks or even a yoga class may cause inflammation of the area, which calls for an icing protocol.

The problem I face is finding an ice pack that fits comfortably around the affected area, one that both stays in place and offers satisfactory compression. The hip joint is deep and much more difficult to access than joints closer to the skin, such as the shoulder, knee, or wrist. When I ice, I like to cover not only the outside of the upper leg but also the ASIS (hip bone) and then into the groin area. It’s a large, oddly shaped area to cover, one that most ice packs alone just can’t handle.

However, using my MacGyver skills, I managed to find a way to manipulate two ice packs to cover the area. Both are gel-filled freezer packs that slip into cloth pouches with velcro straps. I would put the smaller one in my groin area (kind of cupping the upper inside thigh) and then place the larger one around my waist, to both cover the outside of the hip and the ASIS bone and to securely hold the lower pouch in place for maximum compression.

The photo above is even more MacGyver than usual, because this was taken while on vacation in Disney World, when I wasn’t able to bring along the gel packs. Instead, I used 1-gallon-sized plastic freezer bags filled with ice from the hotel ice machine (conveniently located right across the hall from our room).

Even though I’ve been icing like this for more than a year, I still complain about the awkwardness of it all. I continuously fumble with the velcro straps, and sometimes I need Bryan to hold one pack in place while I manipulate the other. Also, if I’m standing, gravity takes over and the bottom pack sags after a few minutes, diminishing the compression. Again and again, I’ve Googled “ice pack for hip,” with not many specific results popping up. Most things that come up are giant ice packs, which still wouldn’t be able to wrap around all of the affected areas and stay in place.

But then along came Moji.

I met Moji a few weeks ago when I accompanied Bryan to the Philadelphia Rock ‘n’ Roll Half-Marathon expo. I saw their booth, with keywords “ice” and “compression” displayed on the signs. The display looked high-tech, sporty, sleek, and advanced. I walked up to the sales rep and asked, “Hey, do you have anything for the hip?”

In a blink of an eye, the rep had the Moji One wrapped around my hip.

I looked up at Bryan and gave him the biggest grin. It was as though I had found a cure for cancer, the Fountain of Youth, and the secret to world peace all at once. “This is it!” I exclaimed. “This is what I’ve been dreaming of!”

On its own, the Moji One looks like a work of art, a synthetic butterfly:

The gray portion is the gel pack, which can be either frozen or heated. The backside of this is velcroed onto the black wrap, which is super stretchy while still offering maximum compression. There is plenty of velcro surface area, so no more fumbling to get a little strip of velcro attached to just the right place.

Yes, for an ice pack, the Moji One is expensive (it retails online for $99.95, but I got an expo special of $90), but it is the design I’ve been seeking for so long now. And since I ice almost every day, it is certainly worth the investment. Even better, the Moji One isn’t just for the hip; it has 11 other functions and works on the ankle, shoulder, quads, and other body parts. It is so versatile! I haven’t used it for any other areas yet, but I can vouch for its effectiveness on the hip. I can go from sitting to standing without it slipping or sliding; heck, I could even dance in this if I wanted.

I never thought I’d be so excited about a pain relief product, but this ice pack totally warms my heart! 🙂

Note. I was not paid or asked or encouraged by anyone to write this post; I just want to spread the word to anyone else out there seeking effective hip pain relief!

About the Author

Name: Jennifer

Location: Greater Philadelphia Area

Blog Mission:
SHARE my practice experience in conscious dance and yoga,

EXPAND my network of like-minded individuals,

FULFILL my desire to work with words in a more creative and community-building capacity;

FLOW and GROW with the world around me!

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