The Dead's Vibrations

My mom missed the Grateful Dead’s “farewell tour” already this year because she was dog-sitting Fonzy, the love of my life, while I was gallivanting across the Atlantic. She pleaded with me to see Dead & Company with her at Madison Square Garden on Halloween. I really wanted to make it happen for her and a friend. But she didn’t want to go with a friend - she wanted to go with me. I’d only heard of the negative connotations associated with Dead Heads. I was certain I wouldn’t fit in.

But then she sold me, very easily, “John Mayer is the company, Elizabeth.” She knew she had me.

Next to Fonzy, John Mayer is the next love of my life. He’s been there for me through all of the best and worst times since I met him in 2006, the year Continuum was released. I know him to be a great storyteller and a guitarist who brings me to happy tears and sad tears regularly.

Anyway, I knew John would be amazing on the guitar, like he has every other time I’ve seen him. But I can’t lie, I had doubts. I was skeptical of the greatness he has combined with the greatness of the Grateful Dead. While I’d never seen the Grateful Dead in concert, I listened to them growing up. I could recognize their hypnotic effects. I knew of the hypnotic effect John Mayer has on me…but they seemed to be two different methods of hypnosis.

Three generations of Feinstones spent Halloween in Madison Square Garden. I was nervous and excited. I was nervous because I knew of the misconception that John Mayer caters to pop loving girls and has little guitar talent. I was nervous because the stadium was filled with skepticism. I too was skeptical. There was no way two methods of hypnosis could meld into one.

Thank goodness, we were all mistaken, and in the best ways possible. Different generations became one that night. You could see the old members embracing the new members and the torch being passed, immediately making The Grateful Dead accessible to the youth of America. The young gained respect for the Dead and the old gained respect for John.

In my opinion, the blending of the old and new was the most hypnotic part of the four-hour evening. I was in a trance. My focus never wandered for a second. I’ve always known the effect music has over me, but I’ve never known it to be so powerful. The different vibrations became one, triggering what I can only describe as an alchemical experience. I left the concert a changed person. Maybe even a better person for learning how appreciate life on a whole new level.

The Day I Accidentally Took 23,176 Steps

I’d already been wandering around Europe for about 2 weeks, and prided myself for not yet taking taxis or public transit… my friends and I walked EVERYWHERE. I never thought twice about it because walking was the easiest way to soak up all of the culture and scenery. I was able to immerse myself in Dublin, Edinburgh, London, and Barcelona.

It wasn’t until I arrived in Old Town Dubrovnik, Croatia, a town relatively smaller in size than the other places I’d already visited, that my legs started telling me something. I often times forget I’m not superhuman, and that day my legs reminded me. They didn’t speak up until after I was halfway around the City Walls, a system of forts, bastions, casemates, towers, and detached forts with a magnificent view of Old Port and the Adriatic Sea. Its height reaches 83 feet and is about 1.2 miles around.

It doesn’t sound like that much. However, once you’re in the city walls, there’s really no turning back. There are endless stairs to climb (I also accidentally climbed 61 flights of stairs that day). And of course I had to stop to walk through and climb to see every fort and tower. My friend and I walked the city walls and saw almost everything the city had to offer. We left the walls where we’d started, and we both had the same look in our eyes saying, “I need food and water…now.”

My legs, my whole body, were telling me to chill out. But I didn’t want to hear it. Oftentimes, our minds are not aware of what our physical bodies are telling us. It’s a practice to become mindful of our bodies. I’ve learned to listen the hard way, but still forget in times when it’s most important to be aware.

My friend and I sat down to eat and rehydrate, and I looked at my iPhone Health App to learn I’d taken 23,176 steps by about noon. No wonder why my leg muscles ached. My mind went to the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, reminding me that I am not my physical body – a concept I struggle with on a daily basis. That day it was quite important. Actually, everyday it is quite important. I don’t regret for a second not being aware of the amount of steps I was taking or flights I was climbing, or forcing myself to listen to the repercussions, or meditating on what it means to not have a superhuman body. There wasn’t a better place to contemplate the sutras than that day overlooking the Adriatic Sea.

Yoga for Weight Loss: The Power of Yoga Teachers

As many of you know, I am a yoga teacher and a personal trainer. This past year (which actually still isn’t over), I was working, writing a master’s thesis, and finishing up grad school. My thesis topic was inspired by each and every one of my personal training clients (thanks you guys). Specifically though, the topic emerged after several somewhat overweight female personal training clients approached me to teach them yoga privately. I couldn’t figure it out. I encourage all of the people I work with to practice yoga outside of our sessions and do other forms of exercise. However, they were feeling uncomfortable attending group yoga classes. 

 As yoga teachers, we are taught and trained to create safe, non-judgmental spaces for all of our students. While conducting research, I attended classes imagining I was an overweight woman and observing how teachers and other students treat overweight women in the studio. This is what I learned: most classes aren’t safe or non-judgmental for all students. I was confused, and still am, that teachers are focusing on only one type of student. Maybe it’s just here in New York City, but it got under my skin.

 I began to understand many of the ways yoga classes can help overweight women, and it became my mission because these women I care about don’t feel comfortable attending yoga classes! Overweight women need to be taught yoga in a safe, non-judgmental space - a space that ALL yoga classes call for.

 And the type of yoga class I’m proposing will benefit everyone. When a person practices yoga asana, they are active, moving their body, and exercising, in addition to joining a supportive community. If overweight women feel comfortable attending yoga classes, research shows the physical activity they perform will encourage them to exercise outside of yoga classes. When yoga classes are successfully designed to include helping overweight women (which is the new normal in the United States), yoga teachers will help increase their mind-body connections, something we yoga teachers are all taught to do.

 While I recognize that yoga is about more than just asana, it is true that a physical yoga practice expends energy. Yoga and its teachers can help students decrease their food intake and feel more connected with their bodies. Yoga can act as a stepping-stone for health promoting diets and changes in physical activity, and we as yoga teachers have the power to empower overweight women to take steps towards lifestyle overhauls to increase their well-being.