Go with the flow

Trying yoga for the first time can be an intimidating experience. But that misses the point of this ancient practice that combines stretching, breath … and peace

Yoga instructor Petri Brill strikes a pose at her studio YogaSport, which provides beginners’ classes for the uninitiated. (Arnold Wayne Jones/Dallas Voice)

Yoga instructor Petri Brill strikes a pose at her studio YogaSport, which provides beginners’ classes for the uninitiated. (Arnold Wayne Jones/Dallas Voice)

JEF TINGLEY  | Contributing Writer

Some do it for their mind, some do it for their body, some do it for both. But all yoga students have one thing in common: Making the first step and taking up the practice. And while this age-old combination of stretching and breathing is meant to calm the mind and strengthen the muscles, a maiden voyage into a posterior-lifting position like downward-facing dog in a room full of strangers can send one’s heart racing. But that doesn’t have to be the case.

“People new to yoga should remember that everyone in class was a beginner at one point,” says Petri Brill, manager of YogaSport Dallas on Lemmon Avenue. “Yoga is a journey, not a destination. There is no perfect practice or perfect yogi or perfect yoga body. I think people worry about they’ll look [or] feel foolish in their first down-dog [and] that they’ll be judged. Our [yoga] community is diverse, encouraging and accepting: no judgment here!”

Mary Pierce Armstrong, who teaches at MarYoga, agrees that you should always look inward. “Yoga will come to meet you no matter where you are starting from. As long as you take the breath and the breaks you need, you will be doing awesome.”

For Wendy Moore, a 44-year-old yoga newbie, has taken these words of wisdom to the mat — literally. Moore recently completed her second MarYoga class as part of her new year regime. Any inhibitions she had about the experience were dispelled during her first visit.

“[I was] concerned about my general lack of bendy-ness, and not knowing where to put what arm and leg,” she says, “but if you look around you will figure out where your limbs are supposed to be by what others are doing.” Moore has continued to work on poses between classes with some slight variations mimicked by “what her cats are able to do.”

Keith Murray, a 37-year-old registered nurse, tried yoga for the first time more than eight years ago and was immediately hooked. He was taking classes three times a week before long. “I was a little intimidated about the whole thing at first,” he says, “but after my first couple of sessions my intimidation grew into excitement.”

A busy work schedule has kept Murray from his regular routine over the years, but he is trying to change that. “I still maintain a crazy life and work routine, but building yoga back into my life has really helped me to find balance again.”

According to yoga teacher Jennifer Lawson of SYNC Yoga & Wellbeing, it’s not just busy schedules and bundled nerves that keep people from the practice of yoga; it’s also our cultural fixation on success. “There tends to be so much emphasis on achievement and perfection that many of us are becoming accustomed to playing it safe in order to avoid the possibility of shame.”

Lawson recommends coming together as a group in a class with experienced and inexperienced yogis to create an environment that emphasizes the experience and process of yoga and not the destination or end result.

For Anisha Mandol, a 42-year-old business development manager who has been practicing yoga for about two years, these words ring true. “Once you understand your expectation from practicing, no one else’s matters. The benefits of yoga are fluid and dynamic, and each person has their own unique experience. Own yours,” she says.

And so it would seem that just as the journey of a million miles begins with one step, the journey toward a yoga-filled life begins with a single stretch on the matt (and maybe a little Namaste for good measure).

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SAY NAMASTE: WHERE TO GET YOUR YOGA FIX

Options are plentiful for the budding yogi looking for a class. Get your stretch on at these studios in and around the gayborhood. You can also find information on their class offerings and schedules on their websites.

Yoga Sport Dallas
4140 Lemmon Ave, Suite 280
214-520-YOGA
YogaSportDallas.com

SYNC Yoga & Wellbeing
611 N. Bishop Ave.
214-843-3372
SyncDallas.com

MarYoga at Chi Studio
807 Fletcher St.
ChiDallas.com

Sunstone Yoga
2907 Routh St. (and other locations)
214-764-2119
SunstoneYoga.com

Gaia Flow Yoga Uptown
3000 Blackburn St., Suite 140B
214-235-1153
GaiaFlowYoga.com

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 17, 2012.

—  Michael Stephens

Planning, preparation can make the holidays much more jolly for all

LGBTs often deal with stress, depression during the holiday season due to family issues

Candy Marcum

Candy Marcum

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

Many people have such high expectations for the holidays that they get depressed when those expectations aren’t met. And in the LGBT community, dealing with family issues is often painful.

Counselor Candy Marcum said that holiday depression is the gap between how you think your life should work and how it is working.

“If you think Christmas should be family and love and laughter and you’re having trouble paying the rent and your family rejects you, then work to lessen the gap,” Marcum said.
She suggested changing the idea of how the holiday should be.

Marcum said that many people come out to family during the holidays because that’s when families get together.

And coming out in person is usually better than over the phone.

But, Marcum said, making a big announcement at the dinner table might not be the best way to do it.
Counselor Randy Martin said that anyone intending to come out to family over the holiday needs to plan and prepare beforehand.

“Find someone to bounce it off of,” such as a friend or sibling, he said. “Like a dry run.”

But when to spring the news? Each family is different, Martin said.

In some families, it’s best to talk about big news in pairs.

In others, groups are fine.

If a family has an expectation of how holiday dinner should be, interrupting it with this sort of news might not be the best idea. But in some families it could be the perfect setting, Martin suggested said.

Going home for the holidays and introducing a new partner is another stressful situation. Even the fully accepting family may react awkwardly to the new situation.

Randy-Martin-photo

Randy Martin

Marcum suggests staying in a nearby hotel might be the answer to avoiding family conflict. That avoids the embarrassing question of sleeping arrangements.

Or talk to family ahead of time. Staying with a sibling or other relative might work also.

Martin agreed that a hotel stay could be a perfect alternative for a couple during a holiday visit: “Maybe Grandpa smokes and one of you can’t tolerate it, or your family gets up much earlier than you do,” he said.

He added that any number of situations could make it simpler all the way around not to stay with one’s parents.

Marcum said another uncomfortable situation is visiting family after a breakup. While you might have moved on, everyone else could be feeling the loss for the first time, she said.

“Now you’ve got a new one [partner],” Marcum said. “That’s awkward at best.”

Martin agreed. “The family already has a pattern down. Do what you can to let everyone else catch up,” he said.

Loneliness is another common problem many people in the LGBT community face during the holidays.

Happy childhood memories of the holidays can bring on a bout of depression when those expectations will not be met because of family rejection, Marcum said.

Others are alone for the holidays simply because of distance, cost of travel or having to work.

Martin suggested doing some extra preparation for the holidays, especially if that time of year tends to be difficult. While many people spend quite a bit of time going to parties and shopping for everyone else, he suggested spending time making plans for yourself.

“Loneliness is real,” Martin said. “We’re hard-wired to be connected. Make plans.”

And he said make back-up plans in case other plans fall through. Think of whom to contact if you’re alone — maybe someone to go with to a movie.
Marcum agreed, adding, “Be good to yourself.”

“Make a plan that pleases you,” she said. “Whatever gives you joy.”

She suggested going to church, volunteering in a soup kitchen or having friends or neighbors over.

“Buy yourself something,” she suggested. “Wrap it up and put it under the tree.”

She said that when sadness around the holiday is a result bad family relations, keep the door open.

“Take the high road with your family,” Marcum said. “Continue to reach out.”

That includes inviting them to visit, and calling or sending cards and emails to keep in touch.

Martin’s general advice is to stay connected. He said that if exercise is part of your regular routine, make time to get in a workout. He said to not let all the parties and shopping and pressure from the holiday become overwhelming.

And Marcum gives a word of warning about drinking during the holiday “Watch your alcohol intake,” she said. “Alcohol is a depressant.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 9, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

The month of living romantically

Kevin Richberg turned his quest for a mate into a countrywide husband search

ARNOLD WAYNE JONES  | Life+Style Editor jones@dallasvoice.com

RIDE ’EM COWBOY (HUNTER)  |  Richberg allowed himself the full Texas experience — going horseback riding on a date.
RIDE ’EM COWBOY (HUNTER) | Richberg allowed himself the full Texas experience — going horseback riding on a date.

Kevin Richberg is looking for a man. And he’s giving himself a month — and most of America — to find him.

Richberg started his project — 30 Dates, 30 Days, 30 Cities — with a simple premise: Meet a month’s worth of men online, set up dates with one in each of 30 cities, and hit the road. For the month of October, he’s been driving around, starting from his home base of New York City and proceeding south, then west, then north, west again and back to the northeast. And each night, a new man in every port.

Initially the experiment may sound easy — a road trip with a date a day — until you realize it is unrelenting. Traveling and getting ready for a date and making a first impression 30 times in a row. But Richberg says it really was easy.

Earlier this year, “I spent 30 days going from city to city in India, sightseeing but not dating. That [experience] makes this seem like a birthday party,” he says.

The experience hasn’t been what he expected — it’s been much better.

“I went into this with the expectation that unintended consequences — glitches, unforeseen weather or being stood up — would be a part of this. Or that I might have completely misread who I had chosen to go out with and one of the dates would be a monumental disaster. It’s been the opposite of all those things.”

For the first half of the trip, he had near-perfect weather and “met the most amazing people with whom I have gotten along famously. There’s no one I didn’t laugh with or wouldn’t stay in touch with.”

He set a lot of ground rules: He wanted every date planned before he began the trip, using a variety of sites, from Manhunt.net to Gay.com and Craigslist, to find applicants (He didn’t allow photographs or ages to keep the selection process as fair as possible.) Throughout the summer, 1,000 people filled out “proposals” detailing the date they had planned. Then in September, he weeded through them to begin his quest for Mr. Right.

“I asked people in different cities if they would be my date in that particular city,” he says. Some said no for logistic reasons, such as being out of town the day he’d be in their city. At least one other has an even better excuse.

“My [planned] date in Salt Lake City told me right after he sent in the application, he met someone and now they’re getting married,” he says. He found replacement dates each time. (He had only one post-trip cancellation, in Chicago, just days before the project ended.)

Richberg spent two days in Texas a few weeks ago — Houston, then Fort Worth — with interesting results.

“In Houston, I went horseback riding and to the aquarium but the man I dated was very shy. He very politely tried to eat barbecue while I’m stuffing my face,” he says. North Texas was more complicated: His date had three kids and his babysitter cancelled. Richberg ended up going to the State Fair (“which was awesome!”) with the man he had originally asked out; then all three of them, plus the kids, went to a family-friendly restaurant together.

That wasn’t the only “threesome.”

“I did several dates outside my comfort zone,” he says. “I went out with a couple; I went out with an HIV-positive man in Montana, I went out with someone who’s blind, again in Montana — Montana’s got some great gays-with-a-twist.”

Richberg insists it isn’t just a gimmick: He really is on the prowl for a boyfriend.

“I got out of a relationship I was intense about in December 2009,” he says. “When I conceived this in March, it was being newly single and thinking about finding ‘the one’ — I’m 32 years old and wanna have a family. I thought, if I don’t take some radical chances… .”
So he left room for the possibility of actual romance?

“Absolutely. One thing I keyed in on [in the application process] was the feeling that the person [applying] was taking this seriously, the same way I was. Hopefully I will meet someone I will like and we’ll be friends. If all goes really well, we’ll hang out and see if this goes anywhere.”

So how will it all end?

“On Halloween there’s a twist,” he says. “You have to wait to find out what.”

To follow his romantic escapades, visit 30Dates30Days30Cities.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 29, 2010

—  Kevin Thomas