Tag Archives: women

Nanni for the Writer’s Workshop ~

Amidst the blustery grey, on a day that would otherwise have succumbed to those first signs of ennui . . . today’s source of gratitude: A writing workshop at the South Asian Women’s Creative Commons Literary Festival, Breathing for the Stage. (“Nanni” means thankyou in Malayalam – a language in Kerala, India)

The South Asian Women’s Creative Collective is a nonprofit arts organization dedicated to the advancement, visibility, and development of emerging and established South Asian women artists and creative professionals.

Washington Mews, NYU, where the festival was held – if it weren’t for that SUV right there, I’da thought we were in France!
Oooh la la!

The workshop was facilitated by a yoga colleague and friend, Roopa Singh.  We practiced yoga asanas and pranayam, discussed several reading excerpts, and spent time writing about our wants and needs as writers and performers.  Though it’s been years since I’ve performed on a stage (or more typically, at a debate podium), the concepts we explored will no doubt be utilized in future workshops (leading, participating), as a yoga/English teacher, and likely in the most unexpected of places.  Roopa’s adept facilitation allowed for space to share and listen, and some of the big topics brought up by the group will make for juicy contemplation points in future:

  • Utilization of agni (fire), and grounding before a performance
  • Drawing a somatic map of experience, positive and negative, and excavating these potent sources for creative expression
  • Integrity of self through role transitions
  • Trusting inner voice and ability to carry someone else’s story
  • How “being present” is related to the idea of “surrendering to creative force”
Writing workshop . . . where the group genius flows.

From the workshop description:

When I dare to be powerful—to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid.
—Audre Lorde

As a writer, what you want to share on stage is one thing, but what you do share on stage can be another matter entirely. This workshop offers tools to walk your vision regardless of the opacity of fear, performance strengthening skills towards serving that vision, and best practices on breathing for the stage.

The workshop starts with a half-hour of simple yoga techniques, including Pranayama breathing from the diaphragm, loosening the jaw through Simhasana (lion’s pose), and a series of heart openers. After warming up, we’ll do a half-hour of writing on the complex relationship between performance and truth in your life, both as a child and as an adult. Participants will spend the last hour sharing writing, offering each other constructive feedback on the sonic and visual aspects of the performances.

In addition to in-class writing, participants are welcome to bring and share a five-minute piece of cherished writing from home. All genres and levels welcome.

Roopa Singh teaches yoga in Brooklyn and works on a few gigs in law, music, and writing. She has taught pre-law and hip hop politics, has worked in prisons as a poet and a lawyer, and has performed at the Lincoln Center, the Three Rivers Arts Festival in Pittsburgh, the San Francisco Queer Arts Festival, APAture: Asian American Arts Festival, and toured the Caribbean with an independent hip hop crew. Now a decade into a performance path, Roopa is completing a mixtape of her songs, slated for release this Spring at SXSW in Austin, and a book of essays on yoga and hip hop, available in Fall 2013.

Panel discussion with self-published authors and women working in the field.
Panel discussion with self-published authors and women working in the field.

Even after participating in just a small piece of this multi-day festival, I felt a rejuvenated appreciation for New York as a resource for learning, connecting and creativity.  It’s beautiful to see a community coming together in a shared mission that really serves to promote inter-cultural understanding as well.

Massive gratitude to Roopa for her generosity and wisdom ~~


Does The Gender Gap In Your Country Influence What You Find Sexy?

Alice G. Walton for Forbes Magazine:

In a clever new study, beautifully titled “Stepping Out of the Caveman’s Shadow,” the authors investigate the question of whether our mate preferences – what we find sexy in another – are guided solely by the hard-wiring of the brain, or whether there are some cultural differences at play. The argument has intrigued researchers for years, and there’s now some good evidence that what we find attractive in a mate may have a lot do with how gender is constructed in the particular nation in which we’re raised.

Here’s the essence of the dilemma. Given the fact that (evolutionarily, at least), women’s role is to bear children and men’s is to help provide for them, each gender should have a different set of variables that it finds sexy in a mate. As the authors put it, “women should prefer partners with an ability to invest direct resources in offspring (e.g., wealth), whereas men should prefer partners offering cues to reproductive capacity and fertility (e.g., young age).” In other words, men “should” favor factors like youth, fertility, perhaps chastity because they signal that a woman is ready to bear some kids. And women “should” find sexy the attributes that signal a man’s ability to provide for them, like a good job or an expensive watch. This, at least, is the boiled-down version of the argument.
On the other hand, there is some evidence that what people find attractive varies across cultures, although this part has been somewhat less clear. Therefore, the authors set out to determine whether cultural differences could predict what men and women find sexy – that is, does the size of the gender gap in a given country relate to what the sexes find sexy in the other?

To answer the question, the team used a scale called the GGI, which takes into account economic, political, educational, and health-related variables, to rank 10 nations in gender equity/inequity. The four countries highest in gender equity were the U.S., Finland, Philippines, and Germany; falling in the middle were Portugal, Poland, and Italy; and the countries with the greatest gender gaps were Mexico, Republic of Korea, and Turkey. They also looked at data from online surveys that asked participants what qualities they found attractive in a mate, and compared these to the gender equity data to see if there was a correlation.

As you might guess, in countries where the sexes were more “equal,” mate preferences were less based on conventionally “sexy” traits. So, for example, men in the U.S. or Finland were not as likely as men in Korea or Turkey to care about cooking skills or chastity. In the same vein, women in the less gender-gapped countries were less likely to value income or age as appealing characteristics in the opposite sex.

The results, according to the authors, point out “the intriguing possibility that gender differentiation may be bound to erode across a broad range of psychological attributes in societies where women and men are treated equally.”

And the relationship between gender gap and what’s viewed as sexy is not just cross-cultural – variation is also seen within a culture. So the concept of “sexy” can depend on the local values and even the values within one’s family, as previous evidence has found. And, in this nature-nurture debate, these factors make the “nurture” side even more weighty and complex.

To be sure, there are some factors that are innate: Men from any culture may be attracted to wide hips or an hour-glass figure, since these could indicate good childbearing potential. And women may be drawn to a strong jaw, which might signal a nice level of testosterone, for added virility or agility. But the bottom line seems to be that what we find sexy isn’t just hard-wired – it’s learned through our environments, from our cultures down to our families.

But the results are also important in a more immediate may: with plastic surgery, botox, and (goodness) vaginal rejuvenation becoming more and more popular in the more gender-equal nations, maybe these data will make women think twice before going under the knife or needle. Of course the authors also point out that even the most “egalitarian nations are far from true equality,” so a total “erosion of gender differentiation in mating preferences” is not going to happen any time soon. And how homosexuality would come into the discussion is another interesting question.

Still, the study points to the fact that our vision of sexiness is strongly a matter of where and when we live, and the product of the conventions and traditions of the country, the community, and even the families in which we find ourselves. So using your genes as an excuse for ogling some feature in a potential mate may not cut it – but using your culture or even your crazy family may be a better one.

What’s your opinion of where “sexiness” comes from? Do you find certain traits sexy, which others in your culture may not?

Proven: Yoga and Meditation Enhance the Lovin’

While I’m studying hard and running back and forth between classes, I’ll continue to post interesting articles I find written by other people online (instead of my own articles).  I found this little gem on LiveScience.com while I was doing research on the benefits of meditation (I swear, the search terms had nothing to do with lovin’!).

This Friday I’ll be posting a “Day in the Life of” focusing on the ATTC just to update some of ya’ll who’ve been writing me with questions.  Thanks again for all the feedback – keep it comin’!

Text: Sally Law

Another year, another batch of resolutions: eat right, exercise more, pay bills on time etc. All good in theory, but potentially dull in practice.

In 2009, then, resolve to have better sex. According to a recent review article in the Dec. 3 issue of The Journal of Sexual Medicine, sexually unsatisfied women who practiced the Eastern techniques of mindfulness and yoga reported improvements in levels of arousal and desire, as well as better orgasms. In addition, yoga has been found to effectively treat premature ejaculation in men.

Eastern practices have been touted as sexually beneficial for years — as the article states, the techniques have “their origin in the Kama Sutra of the fourth to sixth centuries.”

But authors Lori A. Brotto of the University of British Columbia, Michael Krychman of the Southern California Center for Sexual Health and Survivorship Medicine, and Pamela Jacobson of The Healing Sanctuary in Tustin, Calif., think that recent research findings warrant increased attention, and respect, from Western medicine.

Mindfulness — an awareness of the present moment, also a key component in yoga — proved especially beneficial in a study, cited in the article, that asked women to study pennies in detail. The coins were then collected, and each woman was asked to find her original penny. Every woman was successful. “In our experience, (nearly) all women feel that they have a problem with remaining focused; they are highly distractible,” the article states. “However, after this penny exercise, they accept the notion that they can focus their mind if they so choose.” The study then went on to encourage body-awareness exercises, which eventually had a sexual goal.

Not all Eastern-based benefits manifest in the mind. The article cites another study from The Journal of Sexual Medicine, published in September 2007, in which 68 Indian men who suffered from premature ejaculation were given a choice of yoga-based, non-pharmacological treatment or Prozac. The men who practiced yoga for one hour each day “had both subjective and statistically significant improvements in their intra-ejaculatory latencies, similar to participants in the pharmacologic treatment group.”

The article acknowledges that mindfulness and yoga are challenging, but they also can be fun — and whose sex life couldn’t benefit from a little mental and physical flexibility?

Related link: Top 10 Bad Things That Are Good for You

Sally Law has written about health and sexuality for the Cleveland Clinic, and has appeared regularly as a guest host on Sirius Radio. Her column, The Science of Sex, appears weekly on LiveScience.

Daily Tipple = Better Health!

(of course, they’re talkin’ about middle age, but if you happen to be an early-bloomer …)

By Nick Collins

Wednesday September 07 2011

Middle-aged women who indulge in a drink or two a day are boosting their chance of good health in their seventies, a new study claims.

Enjoying a small tipple regularly and in moderation improves women’s chances of avoiding heart disease, diabetes and other mental and physical disorders in later life, researchers found.

A study of 14,000 female nurses found that those who frequently drank one to two drinks a night, but no more, had a 30 per cent better chance of overall good health in their seventies than those who avoided alcohol altogether.

Drinking moderate amounts of alcohol on a nightly basis was shown to be healthier than indulging just once or twice a week.

Women who drank on five to seven nights a week enjoyed a 50 per cent better chance of good health in later life than teetotallers.

Writing in the Public Library of Science journal, the researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston said their work showed that “regular, moderate consumption of alcohol” in their fifties could boost overall health among women who survive into their seventies.

Experts cautioned that the study did not prove that alcohol is good for the body and claimed the results could have been down to other lifestyle factors.

Associate Prof Jayne Lucke of the University of Queensland, Australia, said: “Drinking a small amount of alcohol may not cause women to age healthily.

“Rather women who regularly drink a small amount may also have a number of other characteristics, such as good health, an active social life and a healthy appetite, that all work together to promote successful ageing.”

Guidelines state that women should not regularly drink more than two or three units of alcohol a day, equal to one and a half standard 175ml glasses of wine or one pint of lager.

A study published last year by researchers in Paris indicated that moderate drinkers had lower rates of heart disease, obesity and depression than people who were teetotal.

The new findings showed that even drinking small amounts of alcohol can have a significant impact on health in later life.

The American researchers measured alcohol intake in grams rather than units, with a glass of wine equal to about 10g and a bottle of beer including 13g.

The results showed that women with an average age of 58 who drank between 5 and 15g per night had a 20 per cent better chance of good health than non-drinkers, while those who drank 15g to 30g were 30 per cent more likely to be healthy in old age.

Dr Qi Sun, who led the study, said: “Low to moderate consumption of alcohol will slightly improve health for women in old age. We would still only recommend regular consumption of one drink per day because that is what the US health guidelines are.”

But European guidelines are slightly higher and previous British studies have that as many as two drinks a night can have a positive health effect, he said.

Dr Sun added: “Even at moderate drinking levels it is highly recommended that you consume alcohol on a regular basis rather than binge drinking at the weekend.

“But for lifetime non-drinkers we would not recommend drinking alcohol just to improve health, because studies have shown that regular exercise and healthy body weight are much more associated with better health at old age than alcohol.”

– Nick Collins

© Telegraph.co.uk

Japan Fundraiser: Giving feels goooooood!

For the last week or so I’ve been working on a fundraiser for the victims of the Japan earthquakes and tsunami.  Building the Project Surya website, spreading the word on Facebook, creating sponsorship sheets and writing emails, it’s been more than just a fun project – performing selfless service like this has put the biggest smile on my face all week!

I didn’t notice it until a friend from work told me one day, “You have just been beaming in the mornings!”

And it’s true.

I wake up with more energy and jois de vivre!  The days go by faster!  I can’t wait to get back onto my computer and continue with the project checklist! 

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Though I’ve always done volunteer and charity work, this is the first time I’m not just participating or acting as VP of Communications.  This time it’s my baby, and it feels incredible.

Here are the details:

On Friday May 6th, at 6:00 am, a group of teachers here in the Western Region will perform 108 Sun Salutations in a dedication ceremony to those victims of the earthquakes and tsunami in Japan.

We’re fundraising by using a ChipIn page (you’ll need PayPal).  Check it out here to donate!  If you’d rather send me a check or transfer money to my Bank of America or Chase accounts, both of those are options as well!

Most of my Japanese family are actually from Fukushima, where they’re watching the nuclear power plant developments with baited breath.  With 160,000 homeless and whole towns to rebuilt, Japan can use all the help it can get.

According to The Economist, the international response has been shockingly slow, and on top of that, beauracracy is holding up a lot of funds fromsupportive countries.

All this in Japan, a nation consistently ranked in the top 5 for their quick and generous offerings of international aid (The New York Times)!

To ensure our donations go to the right place – quickly! – I chose a 4-star charity, ranked by Charity Navigator, one that has been rated 100% efficient by Forbes for eight years in a row – DIRECT RELIEF INTERNATIONAL.  They work with non-profits on the ground in Japan and ensure contributions are placed in the most effective and appropriate hands.

So far, the response from my network has been really surprising!  An old college friend was the first to reply and donate, one who I’d not been in contact with at all!  My former boss was generous enough to make a contribution as well.

Thanks to everyone out there, for your well-wishes and financial support.  Together, our healing intentions will manifest – on Japanese ground, in the lives of thousands.

Feels good, doesn’t it?

Make Yourself a Shoe

The ever-lovable Pema Chodron gives us all a little slice of sanity for dealing with annoyances out of our control:

A little background on the lady herself from her website The Pema Chodron Foundation:

Pema Chödrön was born Deirdre Blomfield-Brown in 1936, in New York City. She attended Miss Porter’s School in Connecticut and graduated from the University of California at Berkeley. She taught as an elementary school teacher for many years in both New Mexico and California. Pema has two children and three grandchildren.

While in her mid-thirties, Pema traveled to the French Alps and encountered Lama Chime Rinpoche, with whom she studied for several years. She became a novice nun in 1974 while studying with Lama Chime in London. His Holiness the Sixteenth Karmapa came to England at that time, and Pema received her ordination from him.

Pema first met her root teacher, Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche, in 1972. Lama Chime encouraged her to work with Rinpoche, and it was with him that she ultimately made her most profound connection, studying with him from 1974 until his death in 1987. At the request of the Sixteenth Karmapa, she received the full monastic ordination in the Chinese lineage of Buddhism in 1981 in Hong Kong.

Pema served as the director of Karma Dzong, in Boulder, until moving in 1984 to rural Cape Breton, Nova Scotia to be the director of Gampo Abbey. Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche asked her to work towards the establishment of a monastery for western monks and nuns.

Pema currently teaches in the United States and Canada and plans for an increased amount of time in solitary retreat under the guidance of Venerable Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche.

Pema is interested in helping establish the monastic tradition in the West, as well in continuing her work with Buddhists of all traditions, sharing ideas and teachings. She has written several books: “The Wisdom of No Escape”, “Start Where You Are”, “When Things Fall Apart”, “The Places that Scare You”, “No Time to Lose” and “Practicing Peace in Times of War”, and most recently, “Smile at Fear”. All are available from Shambhala Publications.

Bra Strap Bag: Useless No Longer!

Ever wonder what to do with those bra strap bags you get with a ‘fancy’ bra purchase?  Perhaps some of you are thinking, “Well, I put my bra straps in there.”

OK, so you could use them like that too – OR, you could transform that bag into an evening of luxury!  Or, at least an hour of so uber relaxing bath time 😉

Just buy some loose leaf chamomile and bath salts, and voila!  You’ve made your first custom mix bath soak.  They can also make great little gifts, especially to friends.  And seeing as today is technically Valentine’s Day, it could be a sweet way to show someone you care.

Try it with lavender essential oil for a soothing experience, or a touch of rose to rejuvenate your mood.

Check out this list of aromatherapy oils and their uses below.  Most are easily found at your local health food or natural healing store (unless you live in the middle of nowhere – like moi).