When I was dancing and choreographing in New York City, I took every opportunity to gain more experience. This led me to a unique chance of choreographing for an all-male strip group. Most were gang bangers, body builders or an amalgamation of both. I was fearful that I wouldn’t be able to convince them of my abilities and earn their respect, but still defiant enough to grab onto all of the courage my insides had to offer.

Because each man brought into the studio a disrespectful attitude and a preconceived idea of what I would be like as his teacher – mostly it was “that little white girl” with the big set of cojones. I wanted to prove my worth as their choreographer – which was no easy task, especially with the ones who deposited their knives and Berettas at the back of the studio. Not only did I need to prove myself as their choreographer, but to my surprise, I found myself also having to be mother, healer and stripper.

On Wednesdays, I had 2 hours to teach a group dance class to these mammoths and then to help them individually with their strip routines as well as empower them with self-confidence and grace. Each following Friday night, at a large, predominantly black and Puerto Rican nightclub, in front of hundreds, if not thousands of screaming women, they’d perform in all their glory and self-admiration.

You never know how your actions will be perceived, but I do believe when your intentions are clear and good, you will earn respect because, eventually, I did earn it from of those big thugs. So much so, that every time we were all together for their nightclub gig, they’d all huddle around me before and after their show, protecting me from men, just like themselves – in case those men might not have had the opportunity to work with someone who gave them respect.

Hello everyone, as this is my first blog, I’d like to promise two things. First, that whatever I say is what I sincerely believe. I’m not politically correct – which means I’ll express to you what I feel and why I feel the way I do. It is never my intention to offend anyone, but sometimes things need to be said. Secondly, to offer practical mind and body health tips that go beyond the Pilates method as well as deal with the myths and phoniness that exist in my field.

And with those two promises laid out for all to hold me accountable, I begin…

Back when I was training as a competitive gymnast, I had many opportunities to have life lessons presented to me. Most were begrudgingly taught by my coaches, others I learned at the gymnastic meets and still others by the realization that my girlhood was fading – and I was nowhere near where I wanted to be.

One such lesson came during just another day at the gym as I worked to perfect my tumbling skills. Try as I might, my efforts never seemed quite good enough for my coaches. I guess you could say I developed a bit of an attitude, and yes, it was on display. I thought the manner in which they gave corrections lacked any kind of humanity, so could you blame me for having my boxing gloves at the ready? Apparently, my coaches had had enough of this attitude and decided that it was best if I took some time off. Good, I said to myself, glad to be out of their sight. My ankles were hurting anyway.

What I didn’t know at the time was how important it was to extract myself from that world. Although I was pissed because it was their decision and not mine, I secretly agreed with them and left the gym. Choice words cascaded out of me the moment I drove away.

From that one little gymnastic scene, I came to realize how important it was to separate myself in order to stay centered – to give myself time to re-evaluate my thoughts, words and actions. When I was allowed to return to the gym, I was amazed at how high my back flips and twists were. I found myself smiling inside and thinking that my little “rest” helped me in more ways than expected. My coaches thought they tamed me, but I knew better. I just had found my center again. I learned that without honoring necessary alone time, centering time, we can often make unwise choices – from what we choose to eat or whom we select as friends or what source of information to trust in our rapidly changing world. Getting centered puts us back in touch with our authentic selves.