Friday, December 31, 2010

Dancing Fools Opens January 7

Medicine Show in

by John Gruen
Three rambunctious comedies about relationships, sex, love, infidelities, the Almighty, and the joys of dancing.

starring (l to r above): 
Oliver Conant*
Jason Alan Griffin* 
Mark J. Dempsey
Stellios Manolakakis
Cassandra Weston
Barbara Vann
Vincent D'Alessio
Alfred Gingold*
John Zurek
Madeline Jaye*

also (not pictured): 
Klemente Espada
Simon Halper
Karyn Shipley*
Catherine Weingarten
Stephanie Zimmerman
*Member AEA

directors: Oliver Conant, Stellios Manolakakis, Barbara Vann
choreographers: Theresa Duhon, Yehuda Hyman, Madeline Jaye
d├ęcor by Knox Martin, costumes by Uta Bekaia

Thursdays – Saturdays at 8 pm, Sundays at 3 pm, January 7 – 30
549 West 52nd Street, New York, NY 10019

$18, $14 Seniors, TDF accepted, Group rates available
Information and reservations: 212 262-4216
or charge tickets at or 212 868-4444

Happy New Year! Russian style.

I’m an adventurous spirit, so I often find myself in odd situations.  Like now.  I’m in the Catskills, sitting in  my hotel room at Honor’s Haven Spa and Resort in Ellenville New York. I was invited by my mentor, Shmuel Tatz.
Our communications are generally terse and we suffer from a language barrier, so I wasn’t exactly clear on the details of the trip before I agreed to go. What I understood was that there was going to be a gathering of mostly Russian people, in the mountains of New York for a New Years Eve celebration and that I was going to be doing some work and hopefully will have a good time, as well. He also said I might teach some yoga or some Nia. It seemed to me that I was coming along as his assistant, which is often how I function in Tatz Studio.  Although I’m there as an apprentice, having me seen as an assistant eases the minds of the clients and gives me an opportunity to practice. So, due to my adventurous spirit and the nature of learning body tuning from Shmuel Tatz, here I am.
I feel like I’m in a different country.  (Russia to be exact). There is very little English going on here. I’m doing a lot of smiling and nodding. When I was shown to my room by one of the English speakers, I noticed that there were two beds.  I remember Dr Tatz telling me that I was going to be sharing a room, so I asked, “Is someone else going to be joining me?”  And his answer was, “No, because we were all under the impression that you were going to bring someone with you.”  Oh!  Geez, I wish I had known that.  This experience would have been so much better with another American to bounce thoughts off of. 
Last night, after dinner, I followed the sound of music to the far end of the resort where I found there was a show going on. Two men in tuxedos and bunny ears were talking and, I think, telling jokes.  It also seemed like they were asking questions of the audience, but no one knew the answers.  Then they pulled a guy up from the audience and handed him a bag of goodies and put some bunny ears on him. I’m not sure what it all meant, but here’s a picture of it.
Then a beautiful young woman named Olga was introduced and she sang a few haunting, folksy songs that were really quite beautiful and moving. Afterwards the whole place turned into a disco and we danced the rest of the night.  Fortunately, the language of dance is international, so I suddenly didn’t feel like a foreigner. 
The next morning, Dr Tatz and I and about twenty party-goers gathered in a room and he spoke (in Russian) for about an hour about his work. I really wish I could understand him then, because I haven’t heard him speak that much about his work in the whole three months I’ve been apprenticing with him.   And then he asked if anyone would like to experience me doing his work!  I was floored by that. Why me?  I really didn’t expect that.  But I’m starting to get that he is really motivated to mold me into his likeness.  That he’s very interested in having me carry the Body Tuning torch. 
So, at least I now know my purpose here.  And this is great. 
Today at lunch, a woman sat next to me and I introduced myself only to be surprised to learn that she spoke fluent English. So we had a nice long chat about the place and about New Years and the Russians.  What I learned is very interesting. 
The Russians celebrate New Years Eve with gusto.  It is actually a very important holiday for them, even more-so than Christmas. The history is that since Christmas was a religious holiday, they were often forbidden to celebrate it, so they transferred the Christmas traditions to New Years.  They have a New Years tree and Father Frost comes and leaves present under it for all of the kids. Father Frost wears all blue and carries a long wooden septre that he uses to make frost with.  I understand that Father Frost will be making an appearance here tonight!!
Now, its four pm on December 31.  At lunch I was told we were all supposed to go take a nap so that we can easily stay up until three am dancing and drinking.  So I’m really supposed to be napping right now. I guess I should cut this short and see if I can catch forty winks. 
If I’m able to capture a picture of Father Frost tonight, I’ll post it here.
Happy New Year everyone!!
Welcome 2011 and all of the possibilities and opportunities for growth and joy. 

Saturday, December 18, 2010


I recommend that you don’t put too much credence into what you read on packaging and product labels. It is advertising and therefore, will often twist or color the truth in order to make the product seem more attractive. So take everything you read on the package with a grain of salt. The exception being that familiar “Nutrition Information” chart on the back, which is regulated and truthful. But on the front, top and sides, it’s all just whatever the heck they want to say.  And it is very-often intentionally misleading.  
One great example is the issue of fluoride. All over the toothpaste box and tube it will say that fluoride is added “to aid in the prevention of tooth decay.” And you may be as shocked as I was to learn that there is no evidence to support this claim that fluoride helps prevent tooth decay.
In fact, there is quite a bit of evidence to support the surprising fact that swallowing this substance can be harmful.  You’ll notice that on the toothpaste tube it even cautions you to “never swallow more than is used for brushing” and if you do swallow a large amount, to “contact poison control immediately.”
So what’s weird is that this same ingredient is added to our drinking water. Poison control?  Drinking water?  Doesn’t add up, right.  It gets better.
I have been saying this for years, and people thought I was crazy....
Fluorides are toxic to humans. And especially the type of fluoride used in many water-treatment plans, which is nothing but a chemical by-product of the manufacturing of aluminum and other alloys. There was a problem about what to do with all the waste, so the solution was to tell the public is was good for their teeth so they could get rid of it by putting it in the drinking water.  Even though it was known to be a toxin, they justified it by saying it was diluted enough that it wouldn’t cause a problem.
Fluorsis - caused by fluoridated drinking water
Finally, in 2007, the latest research was showing that it was causing children’s teeth to come in discolored. And I was delighted to hear that recently, the ADA and the CDC both recommended that fluoride was, ironically, bad for your teeth.
So, for years, I’ve been using toothpastes without fluoride and running all of my tap water through a home filtration device. I’m not fanatical about it; I’ll still drink tap water at my friend’s house and still drink from a drinking fountain.  And I’ll use Colgate in a pinch.  But at home, I take the extra steps to keep just one more dose of poison out of my life.
I have heard from two dentists that using tooth powders were a better way to clean your teeth than the pastes.  I alternate between using toothpaste and using the following regimen:
  1. Pour a small pile of baking soda into the palm of my clean hand.
  2. Wet my toothbrush and dip the brush into the powder.
  3. Brush my teeth with the paste so created.
  4. Rinse with water
  5. Rinse again with a 50% hydrogen peroxide/water solution.
  6. Smile.

There are usually two or three brands of fluoride-free tooth paste at your local health food store.  At any given time, my medicine cabinet usually has at least one tube of these fluoride-free brands.  I do like to switch around a lot rather than stay with any one product.  (That's true of most hygene products) And I also keep a box of baking soda and a bottle of hydrogen peroxide by my bathroom sink so that I can alternate between the toothpaste and the technique I described above. 

Two of my favorite toothpastes are:

Natural Dentist Fluoride Free Pepperrmint Sage Toothpaste -- 5 oz
Natural Dentist Fluoride Free Peppermint-Sage Toothpaste

Tom's of Maine Antiplaque & Whitening, Fluoride-Free Natural Toothpaste
Tom's of Maine Antiplaque & Whitening

Peelu - Toothpaste Peppermint 3 oz (85 grams) Paste
Peelu Ayurvedic Herb Toothpaste

And then, finally, one last note I'd like to make is that I strongly recommend you examine how much toothpaste you use per brushing.  In the ads, they love to show how you're supposed to completely cover your toothbrush with paste so that the bristles are drowning in the stuff.  They show over an inch-long ribbon from end to end of a long head of bristles. There's even one brand out there that shows you how to use twice as much by doubling over. 
2And I want to remind you that using an amount the size of a pea is plenty.  You don't need to have foam oozing out of the corners of your mouth to clean your teeth.  Be conscious that the stuff is potentially toxic and be frugal with the amount you use each day.  And whatever you end up using to clean your teeth, be sure to rinse it out thoroughly. 

Monday, December 13, 2010

The Dangers of Yoga

People seem to think yoga is the answer to everything. It isn’t.  In fact, it can be responsible for causing and/or exacerbating a myriad of problems. Unless yoga is practiced with the utmost awareness and clean intention, it is an approximate fit at best and dangerously harmful at worst.  The practice is meant to be personal. It should be slightly different for each person. 
Yoga has many great benefits. Among them are an increased self-awareness and a practice that encourages many different types of movements and positions, to keep the body and mind agile. But following the lessons of a teacher, no matter how charismatic or seemingly knowledgeable the teacher may be, can be a bad idea if you’re not aware of what your specific needs are. 
Contrary to popular belief, yoga is not perfect and is not universal. Yoga is actually an exploration of yourself.  Being in a room full of students all striving to achieve the same pose is ludicrous.  There are thirty different bodies in thirty different shapes and needing thirty different practices. Having all thirty of these diverse people doing the same positions is not what yoga is about. In the west, we have turned the practice of yoga into a ‘class’ that we attend.  And in many tragic cases, the practice isn’t given much thought outside of that one hour on the mat; and even that hour is simply spent following the lead of someone else. 
We see many yoga teachers come into Tatz Studio. And many of them suffer from chronic pain.  Not only despite their yoga practice, but in many cases BECAUSE of their yoga practice. 
Whether it is an overemphasis on certain ‘favorite’ poses, or over reliance on certain strong muscles at the neglect of other weaker ones, or incorrect form or alignment, or hypermobility in the joints, something is wrong. Some people, even yoga teachers, are unable to move without tension; they may not even realize that they’re constantly holding onto tension patterns. 
In the end, what’s going to make a difference for these people is twofold.  One, is to become very aware of themselves and to be constantly inquiring into what their body needs and responds to. And another is to be occasionally seen by an expert. This doesn’t mean following the instructions in a book of yoga, or even going to a master yoga teacher for class, but it means going to see someone who’s going to see your body in it’s uniqueness.
I am an example of someone who practices yoga. You will very rarely find me in a class, although I do attend them once in a while.  But when I’m in class, I take the teacher’s instructions with a grain of salt.  I don’t put her guidance above my awareness on the scale of importance.  I see her teachings as an adjunct to what I’m noticing and practicing. My reality is unique.  As is the reality of every student in class. True yoga is a private practice of increasing awareness.  In most yoga classes, I would be willing to bet that most students who are practicing a pose, don’t even know why they’re doing it.  Except for the fact that the teacher says to do it, that it’s in a book, and that everyone else in the room is doing it.  But why?  What are you seeking to accomplish?
When I practice yoga, I don’t have a plan. I don’t follow a prescribed set of poses to the letter.  I do have a series of poses that I work with, but I’m constantly exploring new variations based on what my body feels like that day.  I also tend to work based more on my body and it’s needs than on the poses.  For example, my goal is not to perfect the pigeon pose, but rather to use the pigeon pose to help align, stretch and strengthen my hips and back.
I also recognize that using the body in any way is going to create compensations. Having a balanced practice is a good start towards reducing the effects of compensations, but another very important thing is to get regular body work.  For every five to seven hours of activity, its a good idea to have an hour of body work done by a professional. 

When I teach yoga, I don't actually teach a standard yoga class.  I teach a technique called Yoga Tune Up® which uses the approach I describe. Jill Miller created this technique that combines the best of physical therapy and body tuning with the traditional practice and poses of yoga. The attention is on the body, rather than the pose. Having the attention on the body gives each student a chance to maximize his/her experience of yoga and get the best results.
If you’re in pain or have tension that you can’t seem to get rid of, come and see me for some Body Tuning.  At Tatz Studio we help people live pain-free.  Just last night, Shmuel Tatz and I taught a class on Body Tuning to eight students.  Each one of the students received ten minutes of hands-on body work by Dr Tatz (In a real Body Tuning session, you’d get three or four times that amount of hands-on work and possibly additional modalities like ultra-sound or electrical stimulation.) Afterwards, each one stood up and remarked on how much better they felt. The tension or the pain was gone.
There is no shame in seeing a body worker. What is a shame, is being uncomfortable. There is no excuse for it. There is no level of pain in the body that is acceptable. If you have discomfort, seek professional help.  Also, please approach yoga intelligently. Explore, and ask questions. Question everything.  And if it doesn’t feel right, don’t do it. 

Be Skeptical

The medical industry has a mysterious strangle hold on the unsuspecting public. I see it come up a lot in the clients I see coming in for Body Tuning at Tatz Studio
Over and over again, I see people who have options for healing and care but think that they have a hopeless situation or that they are doomed to be operated on if they want any results. They have stopped searching for help because “their doctor told them...” People don’t seem to hold their doctors up to the same scrutiny that they’d hold up any other professional.
If you were going to buy a car, for example, you’d probably do a lot of research.  You’d ask your friends for their input, you might read some reviews online or look up statistics on gas mileage, safety ratings, repair costs and insurance costs. You’d be armed with all the knowledge you could find.  And when you finally went into the dealer, you’d view him with a healthy skepticism because you’d know that his main focus is to sell you the car that he’s selling.  In fact, in his mind, the less educated you are, the easier it would be to sell you his car, so he’s hoping that you haven’t done your homework.
The same scenario would be true if you were going to buy an air conditioner or a set of knives. If you were going to try a new restaurant, you might go through a similar process before deciding on which one to go to. And even if you asked the waiter for his recommendation, you would typically consider his recommendation, but also weigh it against your own needs and finally make an informed decision.
However, when it comes to the medical community, we tend to give up all our power.  If the doctor says it, it must be true, we think. They give fancy names to everything and intimidate us into following their prescriptions.  Which we blindly do.
But why?  Why don’t we doubt them?  Aren’t they selling a product?  Isn’t in their best interest for us to buy the surgery or the medicine? As an intelligent person, you probably know that there are other options besides medicine and surgery in many cases, but the medical industry doesn’t want you to know or to believe that. 
But I want people to wake up.  Take a stand. Ask questions of your professionals.  Place value in your own input and your own experience.  Even your intuitions are valuable.  
And most importantly, I think we need to shift our perception of doctors from benevolent, all-knowing, altruistic healers to what they really are; business professionals who have studied the effects of medication and surgeries on the body. 
The old adage is, “if you visit a chiropractor, you’ll need an adjustment. if you visit a massage therapist, you’ll need a massage. if you visit a doctor, you’ll need medicine or surgery.  If you visit a lawyer, you’ll need to sue someone.”  There’s a lot of truth in it.
So take your life back. 
Another factor at play here, and one that I’ll save for another day, is that the doctors are answering, in a large part, to the insurance companies.  The insurance companies, being entirely concerned with bottom-line profit, will only approve certain things for coverage. The things that are covered are the things that make the most money.  Those things that aren’t covered by insurance, even though they may be (and often are) the best option, won’t be offered by the doctor because he wants to get paid.
Please remember my analogy.  And the next time you’re in the doctors office, think like a car-buying consumer.  Be skeptical and always ask for clarification and ask for other options.  Also, don’t be afraid to shop around for doctors like you would shop around for a piano teacher.  If the one you’ve been using doesn’t seem to be listening to you, then fire him.
Stay healthy.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Body Shop

You are invited to join me for all or part of a two-month series of classes called The Body Shop. Designed to align your bones, tone your muscles, burn some fat and improve your ability to relax and to recover after hard work, the Body Shop is the culmination of many techniques I have been studying and using for my own ongoing fitness and rehabilitation, as well as some old favorites from classes I’ve taught over the years. 
The Body Shop
Monday, Wednesday and Friday 
6pm - 7pm. 
259 W 30th St.
Second Floor
Monday nights will feature Energy Flow which is dedicated to metabolic conditioning, strength and core stability. We will start by building a great foundation with specific care being given to proper form and knowing how to use proper intensity while building new sophistication into your movement.  This technique will turn you into a master mover.
Wednesday is going to be Nia night. Nia uses music and simple movements based on human design and function, which Nia calls The Body’s Way. Nia is a barefoot, organic workout disguised as pure fun, pleasure, joy and bliss. Come prepared to dance and sweat. 
Fridays are going to be devoted to Postural Restructuring and Human Movement. We’ll be doing a series of simple, basic exercises to return your body to muscular balance and alignment. Lack of proportion and muscular balance is one of the leading causes of pain and injury. Although this class would be perfect for anyone recovering from an injury or undergoing rehab, I like to think of it as “pre-habilitation.”  This class will help you create the kind of body that simply doesn’t have pain or get injured. Find ease in your daily life by ‘taking off the breaks’ of misalignment. 
Monday and Friday classes will also be peppered with bits of Yoga Tune Up®, Nia 5 Stages, Deep Stretching, Body Flow and Human Movement practices to suit the needs and requirements of the course as the two months progress. 
The Body Shop is perfect for anyone who feels like they could move better, but just don’t know how to unlock the stiffness, tension or pain. If the problem is tightness, we’ll stretch it.  If the problem is weakness, we’ll strengthen it. If the problem is imbalance, we’ll balance it.  
We’re going to start the New Year with a focus on the feet and ankles, then we’ll move on throughout the body, moving upwards as the two-month program progresses. By the end of February, we’ll have aligned, stretched and strengthened the whole body. We’ll be fully tuned and ready to face 2011 with a perfectly performing instrument. 
A Full Access Pass is $175/month or $275 total for both months.
Single drop-ins are $20/class.
FIRST BONUS:  Anyone buying a Full Access Pass is entitled to TWO free private sessions (one per month) which can be used for anything you need to help advance your progress and improve your results. Attendance to every class is not required to receive this bonus.  
SECOND BONUS: Full Access Passholders receive a free toolkit of fitness props (including two Yoga Tune Up® therapy balls, a yoga mat, a block, a strap and a blanket). Tool kits can also be purchased for $40. But anyone attending six single classes earns a free toolkit. You can store your toolkit in our space during the course, at your own risk. (I’ve stored stuff there before and so far nothing has ever gone missing.) Also, if you like, you can take them home and use them in between our sessions. Just be sure to remember to bring them back to class each day (except Wednesdays).  Then, at the end of the course they are yours to take home and keep.
Membership to The Body Shop does NOT include Sunday morning Nia classes at Bridge For Dance. The Sunday Morning Nia membership costs $55/month. 
However, I’m offering a Body Shop / Nia Combined Access Pass for only $200/month or $395 for both months.  
So... for $395 you’ll get two months of The Body Shop and Sunday Nia, plus TWO free private sessions with me and your own toolkit of fitness props to keep.  
As I’ve said, you certainly don’t need to be present at every class. You’ll get benefits from whatever classes you CAN attend. And you don’t need to be present at every class in order to purchase Full Access Passes and receive all the cool bonuses. 
Classes starts immediately in 2011- January 3 is our first class.  So, let’s get some good habits established and lay the groundwork of a good, solid body for the New Year.
See you in the Body Shop.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Exercise for Knee Pain

Many people complain of pain in their knees. Very often, this is due to a quadriceps muscular imbalance.  The quadriceps is a group of muscles on the front of your thigh.  There are four of them (hence “quad”) that all have a slightly different lines of pull.  If one muscle in this set is proportionally much stronger or weaker than the rest, it will distort the line of pull.  Sometimes, this distortion is enough to cause the kneecap to track off course, creating discomfort or pain.
In many cases, the culprit is a weakness in the most medial muscle of the quadriceps, called the vastus medialis.  I believe that this weakness is caused by our tendency to not squat deeply, and since the Vastus Medialis is responsible for those particular degrees of knee flexion, it gets underutilized and becomes underdeveloped.  Of course, this is just my theory; I may be wrong. 
However, what I do know, is how to make that muscle stronger.  And this is an exercise that you can do right now to begin to improve the condition of your legs and specifically to help alleviate pain in your knee. 
Sit in a chair that is at the correct height.  You’ll know it’s the correct height if you can sit on the edge of the chair with both feet flat on the floor and your knees bent at ninety degrees.  If the chair is too low, you can put a pillow under you so that you sit higher, or if the chair is too high, you can place a yoga block or a few books under your feet.  Adjust yourself so that you can sit erect with your feet flat on the floor and your knees bent at ninety degrees. 
Place your hands on your thigh.  One hand goes on the lateral aspect of the front of the thigh and one on the medial aspect. Then, press your foot slightly down into the floor and at the same time begin to make a slight movement forward.  It’s a very slight movement as if you were going to slide the bottom of your foot along the floor.  But don’t  move the foot. You’ll feel your thigh muscles contracting underneath your hands.
Notice that if you use a lot of force, you’ll feel contractions under both hands, which means that you are contracting the vastus medialis, but also contracting the vastus lateralis which is on the lateral aspect of the thigh.
Keep repeating this movement, only use less and less force. Make the movement less and less until you can feel only the medialis contracting.  It may take a great deal of concentration, but you want to train yourself to be able to contract only the vastus medialis.  Use your hands as feedback.  If you feel the muscle moving or getting firm under your hand, you know it’s contracting. You want to feel the inner thigh contract while feeling that the outer thigh is not contracting. 
Your foot and your knee will not be moving.  You’re only looking for a contraction of the vastus medialis.  You can do this exercise every day. Strengthening this muscle, and bringing it into balance with the strength of the vastus lateralis will help balance out the knee joint and will help reduce and eliminate that knee pain.