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

LSR Journal: Overcoming doubts to ride for others

James Cannata
James Cannata

M.M. Adjarian  |  Contributing Writer
editor@dallasvoice.com

Cycling for the Lone Star Ride Fighting AIDS ultimately means giving people with HIV and AIDS a chance at a better quality of life. But as Dallas IT professional James Cannata can attest, saddling up on behalf of others can also offer unexpected lessons in faith and self-confidence.

Cannata had known about the LSR for a number of years prior to his official entry into it this year. But overweight as he was, Cannata never thought he could become an event participant, let alone an LSR cyclist.

“When I got my bike last year, it was the first one I’d owned since I was a teenager,” a somewhat embarrassed Cannata admits. And his first efforts at a return to cycling were frankly halfhearted.

He estimates that in 2010, he rode no more than six or seven miles; and the bicycle that was to have awakened his inner athlete became little more than a two-wheeled dust-collector.

Despite the anemic mileage totals, the 41-year-old Cannata was able to follow through on a health and fitness program he’d also begun at about the same time. When he finally took the Ride plunge at the LSR kickoff party last May, he had lost 30 pounds and kicked a 25-year-plus smoking habit.

Says the IT tech,“ I thought to myself, ‘I’m in a little better shape now.’ I had come a long way in the last year-and-a-half, so I decided I could [finally] do the Ride and help out other people.”

But then Cannata had an attack of nerves. In his mind, he was a cycling newbie whose sole experience with fundraising had consisted of selling candy for his Cub Scout troop. Who was he to be doing the LSR?

“I called [event manager] Jerry [Calumn] and told him there was no way I would be able to raise my goal of $1,200,” Cannata recalls. “Besides which, we were going to be riding on real streets on our bikes, with real traffic going by. And these were real miles in real weather.”

Cannata was ready to give the $200 he had already raised back to his sponsors. Calumn, who saw more in Cannata than he could see in himself, immediately got the flustered IT tech in touch with another, more experienced rider who took him on a test ride.

“And I just absolutely loved it,” Cannata beams. “I was kind of stunned that I had done 10 or 12 miles; it was just amazing for me. I couldn’t believe I’d done that, you know?”

Since then, Cannata has worked up to doing 30 miles per ride. Now he fully expects to achieve his goal of doing 90 miles during the two days the Ride will take place.

The encouragement he received from other LSR members helped Cannata believe in himself and carry on towards his goal. And as Cannata has moved along his path, he’s seen still other positives emerge.
“When I look at the people who have donated to this ride,” he says, “it’s amazing to see the level of support, especially [among] my heterosexual allies who are very close friends. They have donated quite a bit of money. It’s just so amazing that these people are proud of me for doing this.”

The upcoming Ride will be a challenge for Cannata, but one he’s now ready to embrace with open arms. After all, all the hurdles he has — or has yet — to overcome, are nothing compared to those facing the people for whom he is riding.

“There are just some people who don’t have the financial means to take care of their basic day-to-day needs,” says Cannata. “But I’m going to know that I took part in changing someone’s life [by] putting food on someone’s table for a couple of months. Or getting someone medicine [or] emotional support.”

Radiant with newfound self-belief, he adds, “Whatever effort, whatever pain I [go] through [will be] so worth it.”

Lone Star Ride Fighting AIDS takes place Sept. 24-25. For details or to donate to a specific rider or team or to the ride in general, go online to LoneStarRide.org.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 5, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

An Horse, of course

 

ANHORSEShervinLainez

SADDLE UP | Kate Cooper, foreground, says this time in Dallas will be a proper showing for An Horse.

Don’t argue grammar with Kate Cooper, the lesbian half of the Down Under duo An Horse

RICH LOPEZ  | Staff Writer
lopez@dallasvoice.com

First things first: Grammarians and language mavens might have trouble with the band An Horse. Not that there is anything wrong with the music, but that two-letter article strikes some nerves — including with this writer.

But Kate Cooper is fine with any way people talk about it.

“Oh, people get so worked up about it, but it is arguably correct,” she says.

Cooper, who is touring with bandmate Damon Cox, brings the international pop stylings of An Horse to Dallas Monday. With their second album, Walls, An Horse seems to have found their sound, a polished collection of a dozen tunes that play as if a sprawling backing band helped out.

A job well done … but that name.

An Horse. Yeah, it’s tough to work with.

“I’m happy that it gets people talking about grammar,” she chuckles.

The story about the name related to an argument Cooper had with her sister over the use of the article a in front of words beginning in h. That resulted in her sister making a sweater for Cooper with the words on it and subsequently being asked if that was a band … and thus band history was created.

Cooper and Cox are on a high from supporting Walls. Even though the band has played Dallas before, she disputes it was a proper showing (a last minute venue cancellation and other problems marred it), so Cooper figures this time will be better.

“Yeah, we’re looking forward to it and we’ve stayed in Dallas before so we kind of know the city,” she says. “We’ve stayed there while making our way to Austin and every time we drove through, we’d play the Dallas theme song. That’s always my impression of the city.“

An Horse’s debut, 2009’s Rearrange Beds, was really a collection of demos cobbled together. With a label behind them this time around and an actual production team in place, this might be An Horse’s winning run.

“It just feels like a proper record from a proper band,” she says. “The first time, we weren’t really a band so much as just friends wanting to make music. Next thing we knew we had an album and were on tour and it was all kind of an accident.”

Cox and Cooper worked in a record store together and became BFF’s before becoming a band. Little did they know they’d catch the eyes and ears of some big names. Garnering attention from major music pubs like Rolling Stone and Pitchfork put An Horse on the map. Cooper knows they are still young and green, but such accolades comfort and encourage her.

“It’s all great even though I don’t read them,” she says. “It’s good to get the attention and for a band from Australia, that’s impossible. But we’re still both learning and taking more things in. We’re just better equipped this time around.”

Even if they weren’t receiving the high praise, it doesn’t matter to Cooper. She would still make music.

“Yeah, but I’d be doing it just in my bedroom,” she says.

Although from Australia and now based in Canada, Cooper hasn’t found any difference in attitudes among countries when it comes to her being an out lesbian musician.

“I’m lucky I’m surrounded by people and fans that it’s not a thing to them,” she says. “Everywhere we go it’s just me being me. Occasionally I’ll hear a comment but they are usually a lazy reference point. I just say more power to them and their small minds.”

And they’re not so indie that they’d skip out on playing specifically LGBT events. It’s just a matter of timing and, well, requests.

“I know it’s come up once or twice, but the scheduling didn’t work,” she says. “But we haven’t been really been asked to play any Pride events. I’m very proud of being a gay person and I’d be stoked to do that.”

Are you listening, Dallas Tavern Guild?

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition May 20, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Body & Fitness: Scent from above

Bardwell, above, not only uses natural essential oils in her therapeutic work, she also offers sessions teaching how to use the same oils for healthier cooking. (Photo by Arnold Wayne Jones)

Michelle Bardwell offers aromatherapy like you’ve never experienced it at her new Flower Road Natural Therapies studio

STEVEN LINDSEY | Contributing Writer

That waft of vanilla and cinnamon coming from that candle on your kitchen counter? Yeah, no matter what the marketing says, that’s not aromatherapy. But there’s one woman who’s made a career of the science and is now in the neighborhood, ready to make people feel better, one drop at a time.

Michelle Bardwell, who calls herself the “green, gay Mary Kay,” owns Flower Road Natural Therapies, a business focused on the use of therapeutic-grade essential oils and other aromatic raw products for holistic therapies. Sure, most everything smells fantastic, but there’s so much more to aromatherapy than scent alone.

“Aromachology is when you’re trying to affect someone’s mind. You smell something and it brings back memories. You smell something and it reminds you to relax. It’s not necessarily that it goes into your body as an actual relaxant and works with the nerves, but it just reminds you to relax,” she says. “Sometimes you get a massage and smell lavender over and over until you get to the point where you smell lavender and you go into that same state of relaxation. Or you go into a house for sale and when you smell warm cookies, you want to buy the house because you like the smell and it brings back memories. That’s aromachology.”

The oils Bardwell uses at Flower Road, located in the ilume, are not your typical over-the-counter products, either. They’re highly regulated, pharmaceutical-grade oils.

“The oils come from France, but they’re distilled in countries like Madagascar, for example. They go through the French government, the American government, I even have an FDA number,” she says. “They’re organic, passing both the French and American standards, including the USDA. The man I studied with in France sells these oils to pharmacies in Europe.”

Bardwell sells oils to massage therapists who use them in various ways, but it’s her signature aromatherapy sessions that make for an incredible experience.

Utilizing soft-tissue techniques, the entire therapy is one of the most relaxing 90 minutes available. Unlike deep tissue massages where it can be impossible to relax with a massage therapist poking deep into your muscles, it’s easy to fall asleep at Flower Road — a very deep sleep.

After an initial assessment of your body chemistry, and current emotions and stressors in your life, she creates a chart of which areas to concentrate on, and which oils will be most beneficial. Walking over to her oil desk, filled with bottle after bottle of essential oils, she creates a custom formula based on what you need most.

That formula becomes the base she uses on you for every visit, though she may modify it with other essential oils based on any new developments, like if you feel the flu coming on. For that, she’ll likely incorporate Ravensara, an essential oil derived from a tree native to Madagascar with a scent similar to rosemary. Or if you need a little extra oomph in the bedroom, the addition of Vetiver will do the trick as it’s been praised for its aphrodisiac qualities for centuries.

During the near-silent treatment, she warms the body with heating pads so the essential oils are more readily absorbed into the blood stream. She traps the oil and prevents it from evaporating by covering the treated areas with plastic wrap. Meanwhile, she massages your legs and feet, and provides a lengthy, relaxing light-touch facial massage. Snoring is not uncommon.

The treatment ends with the enjoyment of hot tea made from essential oils, as well.

There are many applications for aromatherapy. She conducts lunch-and-learn sessions teachings people how to cook and incorporate essential oils into their diets. Massage therapists and other professionals can even become certified in aromatherapy under Bardwell’s teaching.

Aromatherapy is much different than what we’re used to hearing the term describe. And that’s partly because the United States is still farther behind other countries in terms of holistic therapies and products that are chemically manufactured in labs, not occurring naturally, and most definitely not organically.

“In other parts of the world, they’ve really started to incorporate all kinds of alternative medicine, so they have a better idea of what true aromatherapy is. Aromatherapy is about getting the essential oils in the body, not how it smells.”

Curious about experiencing the benefits of aromatherapy? Just follow your nose. Then get ready for so much more.

For more information, visit FlowerRoad.net.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition Feb. 18, 2011.

—  John Wright