Review: J. Brown’s Tough Yoga

workshopcover-3mb

Gentle is the New Advanced,” an online tutorial series, is J. Brown’s love note to any instructor who has ever felt like a fraud with a jacked-up neck and broken heart. His students, fellow instructors, nod and share their own views while sipping tea in a cozy Massachusetts studio. With creaky floor boards and snow falling against a picture window, this setting presents itself as an affordable retreat, a chance to earn Yoga Alliance credits without leaving home. Brown’s philosophy lands on all of us who pushed through the power vinyasa years only to collapse in a wasted sweaty heap, the only way we could experience savasana.

Through four practice sessions interspersed with four lecture/conversations, Brown admits to sacroiliac instability, possibly from all the full splits he forced upon himself in his twenties. “Man, why did I do all those hanamanasanas?” he laughs in Part 6 — Lecture: Practice Technique. His illustrated workbook highlights a 1997 photo of Brown in an impressive bow pose, toes pointed and chest lifted to the heavens. His practice looks much different today, due to chronic inflammation and a growing maturity that informs his methodology.

In his “radically transparent” style, Brown talks about his mother’s death, an event he sought to understand while simultaneously pushing away his emotions. Despite his advanced asana practice and travels to India, he couldn’t answer a simple question: How does this feel? Numbed out, Brown confesses to practicing and teaching so much that Mark Whitwell encouraged him to get a girlfriend. He did. Today, Brown lives in Brooklyn with his wife and two children.

His methodology now focuses on breathing through core moves — including leg lifts, sun salutes, and bridging — that are building blocks for what are considered flashier Instagram moves like titibasana and side crow. When combined with ujjayi breath, each “easy” asana develops its own personality and level of difficulty. Perhaps I can let go of my flying crane pose with less risk of injury and more room for growth. 

In one of my favorite discussions, a teacher mentions the death of her father. His illness and passing presented itself as physical and emotional pain. She desperately needed to stop “performing” in her classes. Rather, she wanted to offer authentic techniques, something she could do by herself in private. Yet with pressure to maintain large class sizes, some instructors call out intricate sequences they don’t have the energy to do on their own. “If you don’t have the discipline to do this practice at home, I don’t think you have a leg to stand on,” Brown remarks.

Examples of exhaustive, repetitive asanas include headstand and shoulderstand. After a student injured his neck and never wanted to go back to yoga, Brown stopped teaching these poses. “They’re the king and queen of asanas, but I don’t care,” he laughs. Jump backs with percussive donkey kicks fall into the category of compromising behavior. While he doesn’t want to impede on anyone’s fun, he encourages jump backs for those who have first found their “floaty cloud” capabilities. In forward bends, knees can bend. In bridges, he invites full wheels, only if they feel right.

After all that breathing, “feeling right” is easier to judge, which is really the point of it all.

 

Gods That Breathe Through Dust And Darkness

I fell in love with Sharon Watts’ wonderful Om From India article last year in YogaCity NYC. An artist herself, Sharon appreciates the moxie of fellow adventurists like Mark Baron and Elise Boisanté. Through frequent travels to India, the couple has amassed one of the world’s largest private collections of Indian god prints from the 19th and early 20th century. Their detective work inspired filmmaker Rachel Fedde, who’s making a short documentary about the prints. Pieces of the Om From India collection have been acquired by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, among others. 13133298_1380145138678766_3479102306728472513_n

For a year, I thought about the fiery images in Sharon’s article. Because of monsoons and poor framing techniques, these lithographs often have torn edges and missing chunks. But Mark and Elise possess full, breathtaking prints meant to be the gods themselves.

In need of the divine in my own home, I scheduled an appointment with Mark and Elise, not expecting the expansive assortment Mark kept pulling out from a wooden filing cabinet. Each time he opened a paper and plastic-covered print, my nose twitched from the dust. My brain rushed with little pops of adrenaline. Unfortunately, I had only scheduled an hour and 15 minutes for this grand adventure in a New York City apartment.

I will be back, with permission to lithograph stalk.

 

 

If You Meet The Buddha On The Road, Google Him First

4775f3_e49efb257f72491d8d1186f5d272e9e2

After YogaCity NYC’s “Abuse of Power” panel at Yoga Union, I am chewing an interesting concept, brought up during the Q&A .

“Do we need to do background checks on our teachers?” a woman asked. Her question prompted “ohs” and “huhs” in the audience.

My answer to that — as a person who has had negative adventures in dating, kayaking, and yoga — is yes. While background checks may not be available, we do have google.

Google is Promethean fire on a smartphone. Few people use it the way they should. Let’s say I want to look up a teacher to see if he is an admitted sex addict at a prominent studio. (I’m not naming names, but I am using a real scenario.) I enter this teacher’s name into the search bar and voila, the creepy headlines appear in the second entry.

Let’s try another respected spiritual leader, the late Ashtanga master Pattabhi Jois, affectionately referred to by his students as Guruji. I scroll through accolades and obituaries. But on page four, I find this article, “Yoga Teacher FAIL…Is that Pattabhi Jois?,” contributed by Yoga Dork. This picture shows Guruji with his hands in the groins of two female yogis. I first saw the stock photo years ago on a male friend’s Facebook page. The meme made me grimace: “How do I get this guy’s job?” I never would have connected the dots to Pattabhi Jois.

After the YogaCity NYC panel, I know Guruji had another side. Women at the panel discussed misogyny and the culture that produced similar yoga masters. For the first time, I learned that travels to India may not always be the Eat, Pray, Love variety.

Do unfortunate actions take away from a teacher’s good qualities? Maybe or maybe not, depending on how students frame their own narratives.

My point is that when we first seek instruction, we are often hoping to repair a damaged heart and body. We are likely to hand our souls to the first person with authority. Some of that transference is necessary. As a respected colleague said to me, “When you find your teacher, it’s like falling in love.” I agree. Yet before trekking off to an ashram or teacher training, I recommend that if you meet Buddha on the road, google him before you shank him.

-illustration from YogaCity NYC

 

 

Trump and Bikram Are Like Chocolate And Peanut Butter

Bikram-Choudhury-Details1

I was cleaning my apartment Tuesday night when I imagined Bikram’s balls.

Don’t judge. I don’t have a choice on these mixed-nut flashbacks. Neither do you ever since Bikram Choudhury, founder of the Bikram Yoga, described his heuvos as “atom bombs, two of them, 100 megatons each.” Thanks to his megalomania, the master and his Speedos are forever stored in my hippocampus, just as they are stamped in your brain along with other inconvenient images, including dirty feet and fish eyes.

In this particular sack attack, I was wiping down my kitchen sink when I was slapped in the head with a frank and beans epiphany: Bikram Choudhury and Donald Trump should be friends — possibly running mates.

donald-trump-outrageous-quotes

Here’s my reasoning. Bikram, as stated above, responds positively to weapons of mass destruction as symbols of power. Fat Man and Little Boy live in his trousers in a permanent state of detonation. The Donald believes Japan, which adopted a pacifist constitution after surviving these atomic bombs, should man up and get nukes.

Practically twins!

Additionally, Mr. Trump has an orange complexion, almost as if he were locked in a 105-degree room all the time. Mr. Choudhury believes his hot yoga routine is the only way to enlightenment. “Everything else is shit,” he has said.

Drumpf enjoys baseball caps on bad hair days, which are indistinguishable from his good hair days. Panty Man also likes billed hats, although it’s impossible to muss his flowing locks, brushed by attendants/slaves in his inner circle.

Obviously, these boys are groin-centered. And creepy. Who could forget the recent GOP debate when the Comb-Over King said this: “Look at those hands, are they small hands? If they’re small, something else must be small. I guarantee you there’s no problem. I guarantee.”

For more evidence of a potential GOP bro-mance ticket, I will provide ridiculous quotes. See if you can guess which pearl came from which guy:

  1. “I give every staff member of mine a car, something like a Jeep Cherokee.”
  2. “You know, it really doesn’t matter what the media write as long as you’ve got a young, and beautiful, piece of ass.”
  3. “The beauty of me is that I’m very rich.”
  4. “I should be the most honored man in your country.”
  5. “Why are your legs spread? Women should not spread their legs any time, anywhere! Only in emergencies.”
  6. “It’s freezing and snowing in New York – we need global warming!”
  7. “Why do you want to pay money to go to a hot room and torture yourself?”
  8. “I’m bullet proof, waterproof, wind proof, money proof, sex proof, emotion proof, stress proof, strength proof.”
  9. “I could shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose any voters.”
  10. “Don’t throw up on the carpet. It’s new.”

Answers: 1. Bikram 2. Trump 3. Trump 4. Bikram 5. Bikram 6. Trump 7. Bikram 8. Bikram 9. Trump 10. Bikram

Yoga Is A Great Place To Meet Lots Of Attractive Single Women

DSC_5910

photo from washingtonpost.com

To calm my urban brain, which was doing a series of jump backs and handstands, I recently attended my first class at MNDFL, New York’s first meditation studio with gym hours.

Upon entering the swanky West Village space, I was blown away by the lush decor and the group of four men sipping tea in the inviting living room area. These were normal gentlemen in V-neck sweaters and scarves who have long escaped the snares of my eHarmony search engines. I’ve rarely seen more than a few of this endangered species in vinyasa, restorative, ashtanga, hatha, Bikram, Kundalini, Anusara, yin, aerial, aqua, power, hot, or even naked yoga (although there were more than the average clothed class).

Yoga Journal, which loves nimble cover girls, noticed the disparity. Recently, the publication conducted a survey. As you might have guessed from all the athleisure-wear, yoga practice is stretching like a pair of factory reject compression shorts. As of 2016, 36 million Americans practice asana, up from 20.4 million in 2012. Of that large group, 72 percent are women.

In my experience, yoga is the best place to meet legions of really attractive single women. Yet I remember the days when boys weren’t just potential sweethearts, but brothers and confidantes. I miss male friends. Yoga should be the best place to find them, an incubator of healthy communities on and off the mat. Maybe meditation was less intimidating.

As I approached the cloud of testosterone at MNDFL, I noticed they were sitting Don Draper style, with one ankle crossed over thigh. I tried not to alarm them for fear they would break formation and disperse into the ether. Not only did I hear chatter about gainful employment, I also picked up on how they expressed feelings. I had to investigate further.

One extremely tall gentleman, a triathlete who called himself Fernando, allowed me to interview him for a feature in YogaCity NYC. Through our discussion at MNDFL and others to follow, I collected evidence as to why males don’t flock to studios.

Here’s what Fernando said to me that I couldn’t fit into my published article:

Me: What is it about meditation that may or may not be more attractive to men than a yoga class?

Fernando: Fewer yoga pants. We have to look at them all day on the streets. Fine. We get it. You’re on your way to yoga. Always. All day. Every day. But a room full of those. The concentration of yoga pants is simply too much for most men. The visual effect is basically a naked ass covered in black or grey spray paint. That’s not conducive to concentration or introspection or even lowering your gaze. If the women wore burlap dungarees, men would do more yoga.

Me: What is it about yoga that may or may not be intimidating to men?

Fernando: For men, the main problem with yoga is what to wear. Sweats are too loose. Shorts are too loose. Speedos are for the pool. I’ve gone to Reebok and Lululemon and Nike, and they just don’t make yoga pants for men.

Me: Why are there fewer numbers of men in yoga in your opinion? Is it flexibility? I’m aiming to be helpful to yoga teachers. We DO NOT KNOW!

Fernando: I do think that flexibility is one issue. When the instructor says to lay your face down on your knees, or if you can’t, then do something similar, that might be tough for men to take. One thing is tone of voice. Some yoga teachers can speak in a “calming” whisper which can be more aggravating than relaxing.

More to follow on this important issue. I did tell Fernando about Moon & Son yoga clothing just for men.

I Interviewed The Yoga Mall Woman And Am Better For It

After 12 years teaching yoga, I celebrated my 41st birthday a jaded crust of the gal who once traversed three boroughs with a pocket of playlists. Currently a full-time recreational therapist, I offer free asana to older adults. It’s rewarding. Yet when I look at my earnings — less than the New York median household income of $50,711 — I wonder if I should have married a rich guy and developed integrity after growing my brand.Partner-Yoga-Photos-Instagram

I’m kidding. (Kind of.) As a survivor of the boom that bloomed yoga-lebrities like Tara Stiles and Seane Corn, I saw potential in this $27 billion a year industry that ultimately left me without enough money to live on. Crushed in the cycle of rising rent with no promotions, I realized my shame looked nothing like navasana against a cerulean sea, the barf-inducing image teachers are posting these days on Instagram.

As I transition into a more profitable career, which will probably include yoga, I wondered: With average New York rents at $3,100, couldn’t I just sleep with a skanky dude with power?

“Oh, it’s not too late,” quipped Theresa Elliott, director of Taj Yoga in Seattle. “That time-honored ascension technique will never die, although 20 years ago, it brought you closer to enlightenment. Now it just gets you a ClassPass.”

I connected with Elliott after I read her viral editorials, including “After 27 years of teaching yoga, I got a job at the mall” and “12 months later, mall therapy works.” You also might have caught her in the gorgeous New York Magazine piece, “The Brutal Economics of Being A Yoga Teacher.”

I just had to meet this woman, not just because of her wit, but also her candor regarding the yoga world outside of New York. In my interviews with her for YogaCity NYC, I laughed so hard I nearly dropped my phone — proving my theory that the most serious yogis are also the funniest. Elliott and I both love yoga. But some of the trends are downright ridiculous. Our side conversation topics ranged from Bikram’s “atomic balls” to Zumba as a DSM-5 addiction. Here’s a screen shot of one phone call:unnamed (10)

She’s in the upper left-hand corner. Cute, right?

I remember her wonderful demos from Hugger Mugger ads and Judith Lasater books. With her refusal to submit to Groupon to fill her studio, Elliot, 55, was my General Leia in a uni-tard. For a time, she banked six figures. Elliott, who still practices but is on a teaching sabbatical, said this to me:

theresa

“I didn’t abuse anyone to get there. I didn’t do Groupon and the subsequent practice of not paying teachers for those students. I also didn’t go the route of setting up franchises, or opening multiple studios because I felt my strength was teaching, and I was afraid I would be swallowed up by the required administration. I was just successful in setting up a low-key, low rent studio that supported my goals in every way: financially, artistically, “yogically.” I was aware I was making lots of money, and I was aware I needed change. I have reinvented myself so many times as a yoga teacher, but I needed a major remake even though, as an instructor, I had never been better. My nature was changing in a way it never had before, and so was the field of yoga.”

In 2013, attendance at her teacher trainings diminished because of 40 simultaneous trainings in the Seattle area. More trainings happened the next month, signs of a boom gone bust.

Today, Elliott continues to work at the mall. She lived through the holiday season but not without scars described in “Don’t Piss Off The Help.” I especially liked her latest blog about her personal issues with sun salutes. Guess what? She created her own.

That Theresa Elliott. She’s going places.

Disgruntled Yogis: What Happens When The Yoga Bubble Bursts?

Since this story appeared in YogaCity NYC last Tuesday, I have been getting personal emails and tweets noting shifts in the health and wellness industry. Here is a re-posting of the article on my new improved site.

Anna Hughes, 38, began teaching yoga in her twenties, before pediatricians and babysitters were in her budget. Recently, she became a real estate agent with Urban Luxe Realty in New Jersey. Hughes observes: “When I started teaching, I did it to serve. Today, self-promotion is half an instructor’s job. You don’t necessarily have to be good. Studios are looking for social media presence. I’m average looking. What average person do you know who has 6,000 followers?”

I feel Hughes’s pain! After more than a decade of teaching yoga, commuting on off peak subways to three different boroughs, I exhausted myself. Now I am a full-time recreational therapist and offer free asana to older adults.

Hughes, who still has private clients and group classes, couldn’t make ends meet as a teacher. When we started, we both saw potential in a growing $27 billion a year industry. But rising rents combined with no raises left us without enough to meet expenses.

I don’t regret 12 years of education and practice—more than it takes to be an IT technician or doctor—that led to real expertise and strong daily rituals. Still I can’t help feeling like I was duped into believing I could make a living as a yoga teacher. Hughes suggests a real paradox, “How do I do what I’m doing, but make it lucrative?”

Hughes displays the skills of a seasoned pro when teaching: a well-sequenced class thoughtfully interspersed with music, simple cues and purposeful silence. In a noon class I took at YogaWorks, she finished with her own beautiful recitation of the Guyatri mantra. Beginning instructors never ground me in the way she does.

At Roosevelt Hospital she co-created a mindfulness curriculum in an addiction program. When she asked her boss if he could give her more hours, qualifying her for benefits he said, “We love your classes, but yoga is a dead end.” She now sorely agrees. “As someone looking 40 in the face, I am aware that health and wellness is more cutthroat than most industries. I’m waiting for the email from the studio I teach at that says, ‘Thank you for building attendance for 11 years, but we’re moving in a different direction.’ And I get it. Studios have to stay on top of trends.”

Is this endless promotion and fleeting financial picture any better outside New York? Theresa Elliott, director of Taj Yoga in Seattle says it’s the same in her area. She recently celebrated her first year as a sales associate at the mall. I remember her wonderful demo pictures in Judith Lasater’s books. Elliott, 55, refused to submit to Groupon to fill her studio. She thinks the “Golden Era of Yoga” reigned from 2007-2009, but in 2013, attendance in her teacher trainings dwindled because of a saturated market.

“I have reinvented myself many times as a yoga teacher, but I needed a major remake even though as a yoga instructor, I had never been better,” Elliott said. I realize that’s the sad true statement for many mature teachers. Unless you teach classes that meld yoga and surfing, you can’t make it work anymore. And, now you can’t help students ascend to enlightenment without ClassPass.

In Williamsburg, J. Brown, owner of Abhyasa Yoga Center, tells his novice instructors—keep your day job.

“Before the recession, it was possible to make millions,” he said. “There was a period of conference circuits with personalities like Shiva Rea, but money is made differently now. It used to be how many people showed up to your conference. Now, it’s authors. It’s festivals like Wanderlust.” And for studios, it’s churning out teacher trainings.

Brown, a long-established instructor, works hard to stay marketable, recently introducing podcast talks. His blog attracts up to 20,000 readers month. Yet Brown earns nothing from these. “My intention is to create useful and inspiring content that people find helpful,” he said. “I believe I can then potentially make money off that service. Selling is secondary to the soul of it.

I asked if yoga is losing terrific dyed-in-the-wool teachers forced to reduce their hours. He answered philosophically: “What’s happening is a paradigm shift in the world economies and use of the Internet playing out across many sectors, not just yoga, which had always been on the margins. Now, yoga is mainstream and subject to the same stipulations as other industries.”

Brown noted growing backlash against screens and an increasing demand for quality instruction. But what happens next? Brown, a yogi since his early 20s, couldn’t answer.

—Illustration by Sharon Watts

Santa Chronicles: Here’s How A Brooklyn Guy Saves Us From SantaCon

Guy Zoda as Santa

Brooklyn native Guy Zoda knows the difference between Kris Kringles and naughty red hat revelers, the kind that appear with SantaCon, New York’s Yuletide puke fest. Zoda, 47, is an expert as a professional St. Nick. He has been ho ho ho-ning his skills since 1990, donning a beard and twinkly expression from Rockefeller Center to The New York Stock Exchange, where he once rang the bell.

But during SantaCon, the annual mass gathering of jingle-jangle mayhem, Zoda, who lives in Staten Island, throws off his white gloves to show his tough side, the same one that helped him rebuild his home after Hurricane Sandy. Last Saturday’s Attack of the Red Menace resulted in five arrests and 100 Grinchy summonses ranging from disorderly conduct to public urination.

“When I see drunk Santas running around, my first gut feeling is what are they doing?” said Zoda, who has donned the white beard for 26 years. “I guess my reaction is to tell them to try acting like that in a children’s hospital. Anyone who doubts me, let them follow me to Ronald McDonald House, where children are fighting life threatening diseases in local hospitals like Sloan Kettering. I see the magic in the kids’ eyes. A kid just runs across the room to hug me. Santa Claus is as close as you can get to being a rockstar.”

Last year, Zoda spread winter cheer at 20 venues.

Yet he may be better known for his full-time job at MCU Park, where he has been affiliated with the Brooklyn Cyclones since 2003. As King Henry, whom Staten Islanders may remember from his SICTV community access show, he yucks it up with the crowd wearing red, white, and blue attire.

“I am more protective of Santa Claus than I am of King Henry,” Zoda said. But SantaCon and its vomit-soaked antics put him on edge.

“It’s not the best portrayal of Santa Claus,” he said of the pub crawl that passed over Bushwick last year because of opposition from community groups and bartenders. “But it does make people like me look so good.”

“There is a purity to Santa Claus,” said Zoda, a proud Italian-American, who joked that his father was Sicilian while his mother was just another slice. On his way to December gigs, Mr. Zoda has been known to cover his car windows so that no child discovers the fluffy suit hanging inside.

At 5’10’’ and 290 lbs, Zoda said he doesn’t need an artificial stomach, a bib that smaller actors stuff with tulle or chiffon. With white eyebrows and blushed cheeks, no one notices his youth, until they spot the un-wrinkled eyes behind his spectacles.

“When I put on that costume, I’m him,” said Zoda, who can release a stream of belly laughs faster than reindeer in flight. “My voice changes. My walk slows down. I really turn it on. I’ve had people in the industry say I’m one of the best. I truly feel when you put on the costume you owe it to the character to honor Santa Claus.”

During a Coney Island Hospital appearance with the Headbangers, a two-man WWE wrestling team, Zoda found himself the butt of their jokes.

“These were big men,” Zoda said. “I waited until we were alone in the elevator. I said, ‘Guys, you’re making fun of Santa Claus. You can’t make Santa look bad in front of the kids. I won’t allow it.’”

Zoda, a Bensonhurst native, lives with his wife, a 16-year-old daughter, and 12-year-old son. He said being a father has made him more sensitive to young people, some of whom are so immunocompromised they can only wave at him through a hospital window. “The nurses can’t provide details, but I often sense that this may be a little one’s last Christmas. I think, ‘What if that were my son, my daughter?’”

One visit still gets to him. At Maimonides Medical Center, Zoda suited up to deliver toys through the Bensonhurst-Bay Ridge Kiwanis Club, a community service organization.

“We visited a little 4-year-old covered in raspberries from having been dragged 20 feet in a car accident,” Zoda said. “When she saw me, she smiled. Her mom, who didn’t speak English, started crying. We learned through translations that the mother wept because it was the first time her daughter showed joy since the accident. There were prominent businessmen and World War II vets delivering toys with me. One had served on the beaches in Normandy. There was even a retired New York City homicide detective. Those guys walked out of the room wiping their eyes. I can barely tell the story now, but I had to keep a straight face because I’m Santa Claus. But I could have won an Academy Award.”

During the holidays, Mr. Zoda can make up to $1,000 a day. The average appearance fee is $200 for the first hour and $150 for the second. Corporations may pay more. “If you’re Santa and you’re not working in December, you probably stink,” he said.

Zoda studied business at Kingsborough College in the late 1980s. Needing an extra income, he entered showbiz as a party clown for $25 an hour. He enjoyed the adrenaline rush so much, he continued as an entertainer.

“There truly is no greater high than playing Santa,” he said

Ann Votaw is a freelance writer and recreational therapist. Stay tuned for more Santa Chronicles, tales of real people who save Christmas, past and present. If you liked this post, see Gary Dreifus Shares Magic Of Coney Island or A Dancer Donates Her Body To Science.

Timecard: Anina Young Appreciates Transgender Clients, Bra Fittings For All

braAnina Young, owner of Inwood’s Brazen Lingerie, detects baggy bras faster than a radiologist can spot a herniated disc. For years, her instincts have steered women and transgender clients toward perfect balance, online and in the dressing room.

10985311_10152844864475698_8020954347980187694_n“Just like I get female customers at different stages of their lives — from boyfriends to marriage to pregnancy and beyond — I get transgender clients at various points in their transition,” Young said. “My transgender guests are similar to my female customers in that they want a solution. They want shapewear because they’re interested in having a waist. So are women. They also want a bra in the right size that will work with a piece of clothing, like a backless dress.”

Tall and slim with a shock of purple curls, Young, 50, is the sprightly mom of an eight-year-old son. She’s been serious about intimate apparel since her 20s, establishing Brazen as an online retailer in 2003. Recently, she experienced her own conversion. On June 27, Young closed her 5000 Broadway store in northern Manhattan. Like her first shop on Dyckman Street, which shut down in 2012, the Broadway location did not generate profitable foot traffic.

A lifelong New Yorker, Young (who is camera shy) said patrons valued the fitting room, an old-fashioned luxury that provides education and encouragement to people with special needs, including breast cancer survivors with recent mastectomies.

“More people are buying online,” said Young, whose business still operates through its website. “What’s important to me is fit. I also love the socialness and the chit chat, but it’s not important enough to other people. We attracted those who didn’t want to go to Victoria’s Secret and the department stores because they wanted hard-to-find sizes and personal attention. But the trend is internet shopping.”

Young is so passionate about individual service that she leads bra-fitting parties. Additionally, she is considering a mobile retail truck that could visit pregnant women and nightclubs. Like her female guests, her transitioning clients prefer expert advice to guessing online.

“I’m sometimes referred to as the panty therapist,” said Young, who double majored in psychology and sociology at Hunter College. “What’s interesting is they don’t shop like other women,” she said. “They see something. They try it on. They buy it. I tell them, ‘I try on six pairs of panties in the same color. Then I try them all on again before I make a decision.’ It makes them laugh. They’ve seen lingerie from afar, but they don’t know what is necessary and what is for fun, just like when you held a smartphone for the first time and didn’t know how to use the apps. They’ll ask, ‘Where does this go? Do I need a garter belt, or is it just pretty? Do other women wear garter belts?’ All the pieces and parts are a curiosity.”

Young said these customers, who were born male, know about her because of referrals through friends and special websites. They appreciate her sense of humor and willingness to adjust store hours, just for them.1935671_152433120697_2473633_n

“They’ll be on the phone saying, ‘My name is Jeff but I want to be called Jan,’” she said. “I call them whatever they want. It makes me sad that many businesses don’t let them try things on. I don’t see that happening so much in New York, but I do go to trade shows and know of vendors who are set in their ways. I don’t know what that’s about.”

Young said she aspires to treat all customers with respect and compassion.

“If it were George Clooney buying lingerie for his wife or Halle Berry, most stores would accommodate,” Young said. “If it were Kim Kardashian, well, don’t even get me started on her. She wears the wrong size. It drives me crazy that she has all these people telling her how great she is and no one tells her that her bra is too small.”

[Note: The first posting of this article had one instance of the word “transgender” as a noun instead of an adjective. “Transgender” by itself can be offensive to many people. “Transgender person” is better. A reader kindly corrected me. For more information on proper terms and etiquette, readIamtransgendered.com]

Ann Votaw is a freelance writer and editor who is a recreational therapist in New York City. Inspired by Working by Studs Terkel, “Timecard” is a blog on how people earn money. If you like this post, see also “Timecard: Helaine DeSilva Looks Back At NYC Tourism.” For other must-read articles on spirit and thought, follow Ann on Twitter @AnnVotaw.