New York City offered so many experiences with dance, of course, being my backdrop – and experiences positive and negative reached out to teach me.

I descended the subway stairs to ride the IRT back to Brooklyn one day; my head in a dance cloud as usual, entered the train and sat in a seat nearest to the door noticing a man in a brown trench coat sitting across from me. The train began to move and I opened my book, not really reading as I knew from years of riding the New York subway, I had to be aware of my surroundings at all times. I kept my practiced eye on the goings on in the train and took a mental note of the scarcity of passengers. Mental toughness began for me in gymnastics but for surviving New York City, I needed to be even more resilient, mentally and physically.

No sooner had the train begun to move when I sensed a motion above the horizon of my book and yep, sure enough, the man was pleasuring himself. Pretending not to be shocked and disgusted, I wondered for a moment what had happened to this guy to make him seem so lost and lonely.

Survival was my education that day, and without losing eye contact with him, I yawned – a big, fat and rude yawn. He couldn’t miss it. Nonchalantly, I went back to reading and was acutely aware that he never stopped masturbating and never stopped looking at me. The train arrived at the next station and the man got up to leave. I kept my eyes on the book, reading the same line over and over until the doors shut. And then, just like that, as if finishing a marathon, my heart went from its imposed calm to wanting to burst out of my chest!

I have found that practicing the Pilates method with mindfulness, prepares me for all kinds of survival moments. When I sense something scary in front of me, I think back of the New York subway experience remembering my gutsy yawn and it makes me smile. We all need courage and confidence in our lives and if you encounter something potentially frightening, look it right in the eye and yawn – a big, fat and rude yawn.


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