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What becomes of the broken-footed?

A tale of danceus interruptus, take 2

So, there’s really no way to dress this one up, folks.  I’ve fractured a second bone in my foot, which means another suspension of Masala Bhangra Indy classes.  As explained by my doctor, I am ‘special.’  (Which, roughly translated, means ‘weird stuff happens to your feet.’)

Although the original break has healed as expected and is doing fine, the actual healing process conspired with anatomical anomalies in my foot to wreak havoc on the other bones.

The easiest way to explain this is to use an analogy of a hand.  If you were to imagine the five toes on my feet as the five fingers on my hand, it goes something like this:  I originally broke the third metatarsal of my foot, which would correspond to the middle finger of my hand.  (How apropos!)  And as it healed, it put pressure on the second metatarsal of my foot (the index finger).  Now, this was made more problematic by a large bunion on my big toe (my… thumb?), an unwelcome and lasting souvenir from many years spent in unforgiving ballet pointe shoes.  So, the combination of these things put so much pressure on my second metatarsal that it fractured.  Oh, and the fourth metatarsal (ring finger) is showing signs of a stress reaction, which is the precursor to a fracture.  Got that?

(And quick side note:  what’s the one sure-fire way to make the big toe even sexier than nature designed it?  Add a large bunion!  It’s H-O-T.)

But I digress.  More simply put, my doctor (Dave Porter, MD) says this is an overuse injury, exacerbated by the anatomy of my own foot, and that more rest in the boot is the only way to heal it for good.  He wasn’t willing to commit to a timeframe for returning to teaching, but I see him again in four weeks to gauge the recovery process.  He joked that I am like Peyton Manning, in that I have an injury that is not a career-ender, but will keep me out for an indeterminate amount of time.  I told him I don’t think Indy will miss me as much as it misses Peyton!

People have asked me if there is anything inherently problematic with the Masala Bhangra workout, particularly since my preference is to teach the class barefoot.  I think this is a reasonable question given the events of the last three months, so I posed it directly to Dr. Porter (who, for the record, is the man in the orthopedic world for treating foot injuries.)  He says the only people it might be troublesome for are those who are osteopenic.  To which I replied, “Er, what’s osteopenic?”  It’s essentially people who have low bone density.  And even those people should be able to do the workout safely with supportive footwear.  And it’s important to remember that Sarina Jain, the creator of the Masala Bhangra Workout®, has been doing this workout barefoot for over ten years without incident, most certified instructors teach barefoot, and the Indian people have been doing Bhangra barefoot since the 11th century.  So there you have it.  I love this workout, and plan on returning to it as soon as my foot allows.

I can’t end this post without thanking everyone for your patience and words of encouragement.  The greatest joy of this whole endeavor has been getting to know the students, and spending time in each of the locations where I teach.  It’s difficult to articulate the gratitude I feel to the leadership at each of these places.  To Lindsay Willard at the Monon Community Center; Lori Schlabach and Vicky Lyras at the Indianapolis School of Ballet; and Jordan Updike, Jonathan McAfee, and Jamie Price at The Earth House Collective… I am grateful beyond measure for your support and friendship, and look forward to working with you again soon.

Stay tuned for further developments.  As soon as I know something, I’ll pass it along via this website, and the Masala Bhangra Indy Facebook page and Twitter feed.  Until then…



When life hands you lemons, make homemade, lavender-infused lemonade.

The breaking of a foot & the birth of a food swap.

Many of you know the backstory. After months of preparation and training, I launched Masala Bhangra Indy in early June, with classes in several locations around the city.  And then, faster than you can say “I’ll take those samosas to go,” I broke my foot.  Since I’m the only person in Indiana certified to teach the program, substitute instructors weren’t an option.  So… that screeching noise you heard was the sound of my new venture coming to an abrupt and unpleasant halt.  Thankfully, the hiatus will be short-lived (classes resume with the blessing of my doctor in August), but let’s just say things haven’t exactly gone according to plan.

But a funny thing happened on the road to recovery.  For the first time in a long time, I sat my butt down.  And you know what happens when you sit your butt down? You get to do things like read.  And think.  You know… life’s rare luxuries if you’re a mother of two young children trying to get a new project off the ground!  And my reading of choice was food magazines, because one of my great loves is, and has always been, cooking.  It was during this time that I read about a movement centered on food swapping.  It started accidentally (as most brilliant things do), in the Brooklyn apartment of Kate Payne, author of the Hip Girl’s Guide to Homemaking, and quickly spread to cities like Portland, Austin, San Francisco, and Minneapolis, among others.

And food swapping is exactly what it sounds like… people coming together, trading their homemade goods for those made by others.  This is my dream scenario, people!  If you like to cook, you know how much fun it is to share stories, trade ideas, and pass along samples of your creations to others who love cooking as much as you do.  And the idea of doing this with an entire community of people–friends & strangers– is just about the coolest thing I can imagine.  Thus, Indy Food Swappers was born!

The first swap will be on August 27th from 1pm to 3pm at Earth House downtown.  If you’re not familiar with Earth House, please take a moment to visit their Facebook page or website.  This organization is making Indianapolis a better and more interesting city, and I could write an entire blog outlining everything I love about it.  But suffice it to say that they proved my love for them is well placed by their willingness to jump on board with the food swap the minute I mentioned it.

The food swaps will be free and open to the public, with the only currency allowed being your homemade treasure.  Although they are free, the swaps will be ticketed events, so we can be prepared for the expected number of people.  The swaps will be posted as free public events on Eventbrite, allowing as many people as we can accommodate.  The best way to stay in the loop, and be notified of ticket availability, is to ‘like’ us on Facebook at Indy Food Swappers, or follow us on twitter @IndyFoodSwap.  I’m working on a website as we speak, which will be another way to stay informed on all things swaptastic.  Stay tuned for details on that.

In the meantime, our Facebook page is a great way to connect with other Indy swappers, see articles and video clips on what to expect at the swaps, and get ideas for swap items.

So, in summary, although the launch of Masala Bhangra didn’t go as expected, I can’t help thinking that the universe had my best interest at heart, after all.  Because not only do I get to resume my Masala Bhangra classes soon, refreshed and restored, but I am practically giddy with anticipation of the food swap road ahead.  I’m not sure where it will lead, but I’m game for the trip.



JUST (don’t) DO IT

The Merits of Heretical Fitness Advice

I realize what I’m about to say may get me arrested by the fitness police, but I’m still going to say it.  Because it’s the truth.  My truth, anyway.   And if you take only one thing away from this blog, please let it be the idea that your own personal truth is the most important truth of all.

So, here goes.

You say you don’t want to do the latest fitness craze on the cover of the latest fitness bible? Don’t.  Not interested in climbing on an exercise bike and racing like the wind? Don’t.  Wince at the thought of putting on yoga pants and assuming pretzel pose?  Don’t.  Because if you don’t want to do it, you won’t.  Not for long, anyway.  And then the shame spiral begins.  And shame spirals are no good, baby.  They’re no good for your spirit, or your abdominals.  DON’T.

And before the previously mentioned fitness police cuff me (with weighted handcuffs, or course… all the better to tone my arms as they drive me to the clink), let me clarify.

Of course you need to move.  You want to wear the jeans you like? You want to feel good when you chase your kids at the park or toss a ball with your dog?  You have take care of yourself.  This is not news, right?

The lie is that we all have to do it the same way.  That we all need heart rate monitors… and food journals… and calorie-counting apps.  I know it’s a few days after the 4th of July, but I’m here to suggest that you celebrate your independence from those things.  At least long enough to figure out what works for YOU.

About two years ago I made a decision.  For reasons I can’t even remember, I freed myself from fitness dogma.  I said I wouldn’t do workouts anymore that I didn’t enjoy.  You know what that meant?  “Buh-bye, treadmill.”  “Stick it where the incline don’t shine, stairmaster.”   And my task became finding alternatives that I actually wanted to make time for in my schedule.  It turned out to be fairly simple, because there are so many choices now.  TurboKick, Zumba, spinning, Pilates, yoga, running, TRX, ballet bar, Piloxing.  And, of course, my favorite… Masala Bhangra!  There is literally something for everyone, and options at all price points.

And let me say what I know some of you might be thinking…. it’s easy for someone who isn’t trying to lose weight right now to say ‘ditch that heart-rate monitor and just do something you looooooove!’ But that’s my point!  I finally lost the last of my baby weight and toned up the mothership after I decided to stop obsessing, and instead, view fitness through a different lens.  Free your mind, and the sweat will follow.

Now, about that heart rate monitor.  I’m not trying to demonize something that has been a really useful tool for many people.  But it is a good example of the point I’m trying to make, which is…. pay more attention to what your own body is telling you.  Don’t depend on a gadget to tell you whether or not you had a good workout.  Did you sweat?  Did you work hard?  Are you looking forward to next time?  Then you had a good workout!  That’s all I’m saying.

So, in summary… yes, you need to move. But start simply.  This week, make a promise to yourself to find an exercise you think is fun.  And what’s fun for you may sound dreadful to others.   (I understand that some people love that very treadmill I broke up with two years ago.)  And if you don’t like the first thing you try… try another.  And another.  Until you find the formula that’s right for you.  And before you know it, you’ll be exercising more.  And you’ll feel better.  And your clothes will fit differently.  And, finally… you’ll wonder why you were being so hard on yourself in the first place.

As Glinda the Good Witch said to Dorothy: “You’ve always had the power.”



Don’t go breakin’ my foot.

(And other famous last words…)

So, I launched Masala Bhangra Indy.  Then I fractured my foot.  Then I cried.  Hard.

And how was your month?

First, the good news.  As foot fractures go, it could be a lot worse.  Four to six weeks of restricted activities, and then I’m back to my normal routine and a regular class schedule.  No surgery, no cast, no fireworks.  (Well, there is that hideous boot I have to wear.  Somebody please tell me that ugly is the new black.)

It’s that whole four-to-six-weeks thing that’s a bummer.  It means a brief suspension of Masala Bhangra Indy classes, but at least it’s during the summer, when people would probably rather be at the pool anyway, right?  (The answer I’m looking for here is ‘YES!’)  But I’ll be back to the full, regular schedule starting August 6th.

The unfortunate part is that I’ve suspected for a while (months?) that something was going on with my right foot.  But the pain was subtle and intermittent, which left plenty of room for me to set up my tent in Camp Denial.  I treated that whispering foot like I treat that recurring weird noise in my car.  Which is to say, I turned the music up loud and ignored it.

Well, halfway through my Saturday morning Masala Bhangra class at Earth House this weekend, my foot did its best ‘Glenn-Close-in-Fatal-Attraction’ imitation, shouting “I’M NOT GOING TO BE IGNORED, SUZANNE!”  Exchange a boiling bunny for a clear-as-day x-ray, and there you have it.  Goodbye denial, hello non-displaced fracture of the third metatarsal.

So, Dr. Dave Porter (aka foot injury superhero) thinks I’ll be healed in four weeks, but suggested I wait six to resume classes.  So I will.

I know in the grand scheme of things this is a sob story of minor proportions.  I am, after all, a grown woman with two children and some life experience behind me.  Not only does wisdom come with age… it usually brings perspective along for the ride.  And for whatever reason, I’m really good at the perspective part.  If you are a member of the human race, engaged in the world around you, you’ve experienced struggles.  And not the I-can’t-exercise-for-six-weeks struggles.  Real struggles.  Real loss.  This is not that.  This is a bump.

But it will be interesting to see how I manage this bump.  Exercise is a HUGE part of my life.   It’s therapeutic.  What’s a fitness junkie to do when the doctor’s orders are to simma down now? In the meantime, I’ll be blogging about general health and fitness, good summer recipes, and Masala Bhangra. (All my favorite things!)

And, oh, yes… I’ll be counting down to August 6th, when we’ll turn the music up LOUD again.  But this time, it won’t be in a dysfunctional, ignore-the-problem kind of way.  It will be because life is sweet, good health is a gift, and aren’t we lucky our bodies allow us to jump around like this and celebrate??  Balle Balle!

What’s a Blonde Midwesterner doing Teaching an Indian-Inspired Fitness Program?

(Answer: Having the Time of Her Life!)

Almost without fail, I get two questions when talking with people about The Masala Bhangra Workout®. The first is “What IS Masala Bhangra?” And the second is “Why did you decide to teach it?” Luckily, there are easy answers for both.

First, the Masala Bhangra Workout is a fitness program that will have you up and moving in ways you haven’t before. ‘Masala’ means spicy in Hindi, and ‘Bhangra’ is a traditional folk dance from Punjab, India, celebrating the wheat harvest. It was created more than 10 years ago by Sarina Jain, a global fitness icon and media personality.

Masala Bhangra is not belly dancing… it’s not fancy footwork… it’s not complicated. Put another way, it’s not something you should be afraid of! It’s a joyful, Bollywood-inspired fitness experience.

What is Bollywood? It’s the common name for the Indian film industry. And Bollywood movies are famous (or infamous!) for high-energy music and dance. For many people in the United States, their first introduction to Bollywood was the Academy Award-winning movie “Slumdog Millionaire.” Though not a traditional Bollywood film, the director gave a nod to the genre in the closing credits, when the cast did a choreographed routine to Bollywood music in the train station.

It was an incredible film, and I was so happy it won the Oscar for Best Picture. But you know what made me even happier? Watching those closing credits! I’m telling you, it was all I could do to stay seated in the movie theater. There’s something about the energy and joy translated on screen that is unique to Bollywood. It’s celebratory. It’s moving. It’s FUN.

Which leads me to the answer for the second most common question I get… Why did I decide to teach the Masala Bhangra Workout®?

Because I love it. Because I’ve never had so much fun exercising. And because no one else was teaching it in the state of Indiana! I knew it was something that other people would love as much as I did, so I went to New York to be trained and certified. And now, I could not be more proud to represent Sarina Jain and The Masala Bhangra Workout® in Indianapolis!

The best part is that it is suitable for all ages and fitness levels, and you can get a great workout the FIRST TIME YOU DO IT. There are no complicated movements to scare the newcomers. You can burn upwards of 500 calories per session, but you’ll be having so much fun you’ll barely notice the sweating. And it’s not just for women. Historically, Bhangra was considered a dance for males only, so the moves are strong and intense. None of the typical booty shaking that can scare the men out of giving it a try.

So… I hope you’ll join me on this new fitness adventure. The older I get, the more I understand how important it is to take care of this body that has taken such good care of me. But I also have less patience for workouts that feel like drudgery. The Masala Bhangra Workout® is not drudgery. It’s spirit raising, and the fact that it also happens to raise my derriere is a happy and welcome side effect. As they say in India to express joy and cheer, Balle Balle!

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