Erin & Rafael

Salsa Party: July 10

On July 10th we are bringing the salsa party to our Lefferts yoga studio. Take the 8 p.m. class with Roody to music and bust a move on the yoga dance floor afterwards! BYPS teacher Erin and her husband Rafael will be there to get the party started.

Rafael will be teaching the entire Beginner Class so please come even if you have no experience or a partner. Rafael owns a salsa dance school in his home town of Santiago de Cuba and he is very good at what he does…i.e. he’s totally used to teaching non-cubans how to dance! Read more of Erin’s story below about how she became a yoga teacher and met the love of her life on the dance floor.

What’s your yoga origin story?

I started practicing Bikram Yoga in Jan 1999 in San Francisco at Mary Jarvis’ Studio (which I randomly found in the yellow pages of the phone book.. when we still used phone books). I got into it as a way to stretch after long bike rides while I was training for the California AIDS Ride. I quickly started doing more yoga and less cycling. I expressed to Mary that I wanted to become a teacher. At the time I was working for a mental health clinic in SF and my goal was to incorporate yoga into the counseling and crisis work we were doing. She was very supportive. I went to training in December 2001 (thats where I met Roody). I taught for Mary for a year before moving to Brooklyn and teaching at various studios around NYC. I began teaching for Roody in May of 2003 and I’ve been with him since.

When I moved to New York, initially I was working as a social worker at a nursing facility for people with an AIDS, mental health and substance abuse issues. I also taught Yoga in this facility, while continuing to teach yoga at Roody’s studio. I went to nursing school 7 years ago and became an Oncology nurse. Now I teach various postures and breathing exercises to my patients while coaching them through the cancer treatment. Being a nurse also serves my yoga teaching. My knowledge of anatomy, physiology and disease process fuels my teaching and my drive to assist people in taking care of themselves…to practice preventative medicine.

Because I am in two caring professions, the yoga is vital to my own self-care. I HAVE to do it in order keep my body strong, my back healthy and my mind clear. It is impossible to care for others properly if we do not care for ourselves first. I would have burnt out long ago if not for my own practice.

When and why did you start dancing salsa?

I started dancing Salsa in 2013. I had been to Cuba once before and when I returned to Brooklyn I vowed to learn how to dance. I was fed up standing on the wall watching everyone else have fun. I started taking classes here in NYC and in 2013 I set up a “dance boot camp” trip for myself as a birthday gift. I met my husband on that trip at his salsa school in Santiago de Cuba.

What are the parallels between dance and yoga?

In yoga you have to focus on your self and build a better connection with your own body. In Salsa, you have to focus on your partner and build a connection with them. If you take your focus off your partner, the connection is broken and you can lose your step or balance. Same in yoga… if I break my focus in a balancing posture, I can break my connection and lose my balance. Salsa, like yoga, is a moving meditation that requires you to stay in the present moment. And of course, if you hold your breath in either activity, you will lose your endurance. I have to remind myself to breath while I am dancing just like in yoga.

Finally, both yoga and dance are challenging and it’s easy to get frustrated and give up in the beginning. We have to be patient as we stumble, trip, lose our balance or melt into a puddle on the floor, but step by step we learn, create a new muscle memory and then succeed.

There is no better feeling than accomplishing something we never thought we were capable of doing.