Healthy Holidays!

Healthy ready to eat food in meal boxes on wood banner background

Clean healthy oil-free low fat ready to eat food in takeaway meal box sets on wood banner background top view with copy space

Do you struggle with sugar cravings, Fine Girl Fall? What are you doing to stay healthy during the holiday season?

I’m in recovery for substance use disorder and sugar was my first “go to” when I stopped using. In addition to the other things I’m doing in my recovery program to stay healthy, I’m learning more about HALT. (Hungry Angry Lonely Tired). You don’t have to be in recovery to be affected by this.

Here are two things I’m doing to address the big H.

1. Eat regularly. I started food prepping on Sundays to support myself staying nourished throughout the week- breakfast
lunch, dinner and snacks. So now, I don’t go more than 4-5 hours without eating. This helps to support my moods, avoiding highs and lows that can contribute to cravings.
2. Incorporate protein and fiber to help manage blood sugar. I included quinoa and black beans in my salads as well as easy-to-grab turkey sticks, sliced apples, and RX bars for snacks.

Holidays are here and I suggest creating a sustainable plan of action for yourself that supports your physical and neurological health through nutrition. Meal prep only took an hour.
I’m not a doctor, nutritionist, registered dietitian so please consult your health care provider to create a plan that works for you.

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Reflections in Recovery

Photos from my new work, Recovery, that I recently performed at the 14th St Y’s 2019/2020 Season of Life and Death, which incorporates dance, film, music and theatre. Though it’s very, very hard to accept, I wouldn’t be here without the light and the dark. I have a lot of gratitude today. Recovery is my first production in 10 years. Not an easy road.

Although I love to perform in traditional theatre spaces(and will be again), I’ve been invited to perform Recovery in a recovery space! There will adjustments, but I’m curious to see what other kinds of possibilities there are to share this message theatrically with less/different tech options. I’ll also have dance/fitness/nutrition workshops within proximity of a kitchen which I’m super excited about too!

So all that to say for those that need a word of encouragement and hope. I’m here. You can recover and create again.

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Healing Power of Dance

Today, July 27, is National Dance Day and what better way to celebrate than to highlight our own fitness instructor Johari Mayfield, who is an accomplished dancer in her own right. She’ll be performing a personal one-woman piece this September in our theater, Recovery. Julie Gayer Kris, 14 Street Y’s Director of Customer Experience & Fitness Instructor, interviewed Johari to learn more about her journey, connection to our community, and the healing power of dance.

When was the first time you taught here, what did you teach, and what was your first impression of the 14Y?
I taught an Afro-Cardio fitness class in 2016. My impression was that it was big and inclusive—with four floors and so many different people from all over the world…families, the word “welcome” everywhere in different languages.

How did you find the 14Y different than a traditional dance studio or fitness studio?
The 14th Street Y is different because of the intergenerational vibe. When I walk in, I see strollers parked in the lobby and an art gallery. I walk into the gym and there might be a grandmother working out or a young person training for the Special Olympics. I love that all people are welcome at different stages of life and are given opportunities to learn and grow.

How did you come to find fitness as a passion and a career path? We’ve talked before about injury and the impact of dancing and the word “carousel.”
Like many artists, I do other things in order to make ends meet. Fitness was an easy path for me as a dancer because it’s also physical. It became challenging because of the wear and tear on my joints as a group fitness instructor in addition to dancing. My chiropractor encouraged me to try personal training.

And within the context of injury as an older dancer now who is starting over in a few different respects, I’m much more empathetic and able to meet my clients and students where they are because I understand what it feels like to be a beginner.

Let’s talk about “carousel”, and the work that you will present about recovery from addiction. What was your experience with addiction and recovery?
Diet pills and exercising for hours to stay thin were my onramp into addiction. As an African American who studied ballet primarily in adolescence and early adulthood, I never fit the mold, so to speak. That was the beginning of the self-loathing. Although I had other opportunities to dance different styles as I got older, those seeds of self-hatred were planted. Never good enough. More, more, more was always the answer Then I began taking other substances so that I could numb my pain after spinning out of control, like on a merry go round. I tried doing more to be seen and become more competitive in the dance world and fitness industry. Liking myself was never a consideration.

In recovery, I have friends from all walks of life who can relate to not feeling a part of something. Some are artists, some are not—I’ve met ex cops, stay at home moms, transgender men and women, students, veterans, etc. It feels wonderful to relate and identify with others.

Tell us more about your current work and how that intersects with where you are now in your life and career.
Recovery is a snap shot of the work I’m actually doing in my recovery program. I’m in a new emotional and spiritual space where I want to be truthful on stage so that others can also feel safe to live in their truth. I’m working diligently to create work that is both personal and universal. You don’t have to be African American, a dancer or a woman to get where I’m coming from. I think that we’re living in an age where it’s so easy to be different without seeing where we may connect and identify as human beings with shared experiences.

Is there anything else you feel is important to share with your audience? Why do you feel this work is important and what is the message behind your work?
Connection. I’ve struggled my entire life and career to fully connect with myself and others. In recovery, connection with others can be life-saving, because some people don’t survive. In 2016, my friend overdosed and died. Before her passing, I remember going to her house and seeing bottles of prescription drugs all over. I didn’t think to ask or follow up. We had just become friends. Was it my business? Prescription drugs are legal. A lot of questions still swirl in my mind. A lot of “what ifs.” In hindsight, I know I can’t control anyone’s actions or bring my friend back. But now I ask how people are doing, go out for coffee—creating connections can be bridges back to life. Plus, you never know what people are through. One example of this connection is in Ivy’s Aerobics in the Gym class. I have never seen a group of people come together like that. Rain, sleet, snow or shine. The ladies are waiting to be in class. They show up for themselves and each other. It’s simultaneously empowering and comforting to witness. At the end of the day, what do we have anyway?

A little more about Johari:

Johari Mayfield joined the 14th Street Y in 2016 as part of the Fitness Pop-Up program. Sheila Kaminsky, Barre/Sit and Be Fit Instructor and fellow choreographer, recommended Johari as a great fit for the 14Y! Johari’s Afro Cardio Dance Jam gained popularity, and she has continued teaching family-friendly classes at Pause/Play events, and has since joined the ongoing fitness class schedule with Lunch Crunch Bootcamp (Fridays 11:30 AM–12:15 PM) and Sunday HIITs (Sundays 9:00–9:50 AM), as well as being a personal trainer. Johari brings warmth, sensitivity, intelligence and a celebratory spirit to everything she does here at the 14Y and beyond. We are so thankful she is a part of the 14Y team and our community!

Johari Mayfield Dance
September 9 – 15
Blending movement and technology “Recovery” unpacks the container of addiction through the lens of a woman struggling with substance abuse. Where does she belong in a world where legalized drugs and alcohol are so readily accessible? Is she good or evil? The urge to explain and define the addict, society and recovery is cracked open and explored in this hybrid work.

Johari Mayfield | Choreographer
Milica Paranosic | Composer


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Hiding in Plain Sight: From Broadway to the Bottle and Starting Over Sober

Dancer. Choreographer. Teaching Artist. Personal Trainer. This “all things related to movement” daisy chain of identities is something that I wear with pride.

The clever flower metaphor, to be sure, also integrates some of the things that have created my foundation that I would classify as fertilizer: shame and fear.

Let me back up, down towards stage left, and start here: I’m Johari, and I have been dancing my whole life.

My plan when I came to New York City was to dance, with dreams of “FAME! I’m gonna going to live forever!” (to date myself just a bit). I can hear the song in my head and can sing it. I grew up with the TV show, went to a performing arts school, and performed in every major theatre in NYC.

Being an expert mover, I had the ability to hide and dodge things. Or so I thought.

There was the time after a rehearsal when I went out with friends for $2 margarita night, added in some Jameson shots, and, after sliding under a bar, ending up on my neighbors stoop making a mess. I remember waking up on my couch with a note for my roommate on me saying “Jo got a little sick.” I remember downing an entire bottle of Nyquil and performing, in a gallery, a piece on themes of bondage and Roman Catholicism. I have no idea, how I got through it, but I did know that NyQuil was a great substitute for other substances when the drug store was more accessible. You could also find me, then, grocery shopping while high or drunk, walking up and down the aisles taking swigs in plain sight.

You see, hiding in plain sight like that, I figured, was always the best place to hide. As a seasoned performer, I got so good at role-playing, camouflaging and artfully dodging things that  I hid who I was as “the child who loves to dance and move” and used it to wear a thousand masks instead. Soon, those layers became suffocating enough for me to have to seek out help.


I chose recovery in a room where a bunch of different “me’s” that are black, white, gay, straight, old, young, transgender, mother, father share their experiences openly and start to take off those masks in favor of dealing with who they really are, and moving through life that way, no matter how painfully naked it feels, at times.

In sobriety, I’m learning how to support and love “the woman who loves to dance and move.” I’m letting go of the need to be seen. It’s more about connecting with others.  

Since entering recovery, I have a new life as an artist and personal trainer because I have a greater ability to help others in recovery from a myriad of illnesses and challenges. I understand that change is hard from a deep and visceral place.  I used to be on automatic pilot and just “do do do” whether I was in pain or not. I did not care about my feelings. Numbness got things done. Now that my feelings are returning I see that others have them too. Because I’m being more truthful about myself, I’m less fearful and showing up as myself everywhere I go. I had no idea how liberating that would be.    

So, I also started teaching fitness in rehab centers. Participants are coming off of drugs and alcohol. Because who I’ve been, I can meet people with empathy and compassion. Regarding the task master mentality- although I got cash and prizes, I created a lot of destruction in my life and to those around me.  

My film, Recovery, is one of the first pieces that I’ve made where I’m showing up unmasked. I can actually breathe. It’s one of the first pieces I’ve done where I’m not trying to prove something. I hope that it creates a feeling of connectivity with anyone coming back from a setback.

I’m sharing this now because I have a new start. Two years ago, I lost a friend to an overdose. Ever since her funeral, I made a promise to be a lighthouse of hope for women in recovery, and for women who may be starting over for any number of reasons at a time they may consider “late in life.”

Movement and dance to heal lives. I wasn’t thinking about that before. I wasn’t thinking about much besides myself. Now, I care about people and how they feel beyond what the physical body is able to do.

Movement is the primary focus of my work, but I also have a message: we are more than our bodies, and we have the strength to brave enough to live within them without anything that alters who we truly are.

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Gratitude in Recovery

Recovery from cancer, chemotherapy and other treatments is more than a major accomplishment. How do I stay healthy and return to activities of daily living? How do I keep the cancer from recurring? These are questions that all survivors must grapple with as they continue to heal. Although exercise and diet are vital in terms physical recovery, there are also important emotional components in one’s return back to health.  Having a sense of gratitude connects us to the people who have been essential throughout the recovery and connects us to a deeper reality of who we are and why we are here. People who regularly practice gratefulness are known to have better emotional, physical, and mental health than those who do not. “Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life,” writes self-help author Melody Beattie. “It turns what we have into enough, and more.”

“I am grateful for my health,” said Amy E. Herman is the renowned author of Visual Intelligence and breast cancer warrior. “You don’t take your health for granted. I will go to Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center for the rest of my life for maintenance. When I am within five to six blocks of it [the center], I am a nicer person. I give up cabs, I hold doors, I hold elevators because I know what people are going through. They’re tired. They’re sick. They’re moving slowly. I’ll never be grateful for my cancer experience, but it has enhanced my life in its own way.”

Her inner strength is manifested in her outward beauty. Shot with a clean beauty approach by Angela Cappetta, Amy is living proof that anyone can come back stronger than ever.




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Teaching Artist Reflection

Being a teaching artist is one of the roles that have in my fitness/movement practice. It has  been a pleasure, honor and privilege of serving children and families in many settings, including in afterschool programs. One of my assignments was to help children with their homework. Early on, I noticed children coming into the program with snacks from the convenience store. Have you ever tried to help a child do homework after school where they have been sitting all day, while doped up on Ring Pops, Doritos, Takis, cookies, etc? Try doing a Common Core math problem with children under those conditions. Times 15-20 students. I had an assistant, but it was still challenging. Anyway, instead of getting mad at the convenience stores and our educational system, I decided to work on some solutions around food, nutrition, math and convenience. Lunchbox season is here. I love snacks too. Too much I admit. We made a “butterfly” creation in one of my classes. It’s really easy and a great way to practice portion control for kids and adults. You can use any snack and it’s an opportunity to bond through art and practice real life math skills. Last thing- I hate the Common Core. I’m sorry if it offends anyone, but I do. I’m looking forward to being a part of a new conversation around health and wellness in our communities.

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