Monday, May 9, 2016

Staying Positive

Something we often mention in yoga class is the idea of keeping your thoughts positive.  Instead of thinking of the heat as an obstacle, think of it as a gift that allows your body to go a little deeper into postures, which in turn allows for greater overall benefits.

I often catch myself thinking things that are not of a positive nature.  At times, frustration sets in when my body is not able to do what it used to be able to do.  Or, when I look in the mirror and see half a dozen physical qualities that I label as flaws.  Or I think of how impatient I was with Bill or one of my kids at one time or another and spend too much time beating myself up about it.

Thinking and expressing positive thoughts, for me, is an ongoing practice, very much like my yoga practice.

I have practiced the Bikram series for more than 12 years and I've gone through many stages of my practice.  In the beginning, I was way too tough on myself.  I demanded a lot of myself with my practice.  I got burnt out and would end up having to take time away because I couldn't bear to be in the room and practice in the way that I was on a continuous basis.
I had learned and believed that this yoga series was meant to me hard, and intense and relentless.  It is what I knew, what I understood and I knew how to work with this mentality.  But something was definitely changing because I was having a hard time keeping up with this.

It was only when I was about to walk away from the Bikram series, as a student and as a teacher that I somehow found myself in NYC at a Bikram teacher seminar with Diane Ducharme.   She talked about practicing and teaching this yoga series in a way that I had felt for so long but had never heard from anyone before.  And that was that it is a  therapeutic yoga series.  It is meant to heal, restore and make the body stronger, more flexible and more balanced and for many of us it is about learning how to take care of ourselves in a better way.  It is for any body, any age, and any ability level.  It is to be taught with kindness and compassion.  It is to be taught so that students can practice without causing more pain to themselves so that they may improve the quality of their lives.  I sat that day and I listened to every word spoken.  I listened to questions teachers had about postures and questions teacher had about students who needed modifications.  I listened to the answers of these questions and I watched demonstrations that were presented to us.  And I knew well before that day ended, that not only was I going to continue practicing and teaching this yoga series, but I was committed to opening a Bikram Studio.  In the time that followed this life changing seminar and the time I began the process of opening my own studio, I travelled frequently to Boston, MA to learn as much as I could from Diane.  I was able to write up a mission statement for the studio.

To contribute positively to our community by providing a safe, welcoming and healing environment for Bikram Yoga students through teaching with compassion, kindness and integrity.

This statement is what has led me in so many decisions I have had to make with the studio and it has kept me on track in the direction that I believe still fits our studio.

As I sit today and write this note to you and wonder how the words will all come together, I hear these thoughts trying to squeeze their way onto the computer screen.   I feel horrible.  My throat hurts.  My chest hurts.  I don't know if I can bear another sleepless night from the constant coughing.  Nighttime has become such a sweet time for me.  A time to slip into bed, knowing that the day is done, looking forward to the next and enjoying nothing but to relax and sleep and be grateful for so many things in my life.  But this past week, my lack of sleep has been relentless.  And I really miss being at the studio.  I have had to give up all of my classes this week.  I was five days into my 30 day challenge and it looks like I will have to start that over, doing most of it on my own.  Which is a bummer because there is nothing like having the support of those around you working towards a common goal.  And what really aggravated me today was that Bill was sick last night, but got up today, worked from home and ended up able to go to yoga tonight.

So then I ask myself what the heck is wrong with me.  Why am I so sick and why is it taking me so long to get better.  It has been a very long time since I have been this sick.  Bill had to take Emma to her voice competition this past weekend and take her to pick up her prom dress and buy her shoes.  Surely I will be losing mom points for this.  

After allowing myself this little pity party, I remind myself how hard I have been working these past few years.  I consider all of the things I have accomplished.  All of the mistakes I have made and learned from.  All of the new amazing people in my life.  All of the ways in which my life has changed over these years.  It has been as significant as that day I spent in NYC realizing I was going to open a yoga studio and understating why it would be so important.

Being sick right now feels hard and intense and relentless, much like the way in which I used to practice my yoga.  But, what has changed is that, although I do find myself thinking thoughts that are not really going to help me, I am able to let them pass so much easier and I am able to put things back into a healthier perspective.  I have learned how to take better care of myself and I believe as I age, my health and vitality will only become stronger.  I can't wait to get back to my yoga practice, to get back to the studio and see all of you.  I am proud of myself these days.  I can finally say this because every single time I walk in the room to teach, I am genuinely in awe of the strength, commitment and kindness that you show to yourself.  These are the gifts I have received from you.  Thank you;)

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Lessons From a Hedgehog

I had planned to have nine children.  I was one of nine. I loved being part of a large family. I was the third oldest and I was certain that I wanted to have a large family.
I admire the women who love/loved being pregnant.  I was not one of them.  I was horribly sick for many months during my first pregnancy and my second.  When I had Jack, my first, I remember thinking, "Holy shit.  How am I going o pull this off? I know nothing about being a mother."  What I did know was how to do many tasks that came along with motherhood. Changing diapers, getting bottles ready, holding a baby, bathing a baby, etc. 

What took me by surprise was the unbelievable responsibility I felt immediately after having my first.  I was certain that I did not have the adequate skills to carry the responsibility of being good enough to help this baby grow up.  But in realizing this, I already had Jack, so I had no choice but to move forward and hope for the best.  When Jack was about 4 months old, we decided to have another.  I knew my number 9 was not going to happen.  I felt barely capable enough to do good enough with one, but we wanted Jack to at least have the opportunity to have a sibling.  I certainly didn't want to add that my list of something I had deprived him of. Emma was born 10 months later and we had our little family. Once Emma was born, I began to think, "Ok. I can do this.  This might actually work out alright."  I was fortunate in that I was able to stay home with them and I did.  I did love being with them.  
16 years later
Jack is now 16, a junior and only two weeks away from getting his drivers license. He is currently happy to give me constant tips on how my driving could be better ;)
He is a funny kid.  He doesn't take things too seriously. He is very good for Bill and I.   Most of what he chooses to do has to have an element of fun or at least purpose.  Therefore, he is not fond of cleaning his room because the mess doesn't bother him, but he's willing to do it once a week because I tell him he has to.  And homework is not on the top of his list, but he does it because he has his eye on Northeastern University.
Emma is 15, a sophomore and loves to perform.  She has learned and can sing an incredible amount of Broadway musical songs and will belt one out at the dinner table, while driving, or on her way down the ski slope. 
She is very dedicated and very thoughtful. 
Because of her carefree theatrical tendencies, you can imagine that when she asked me, just a few weeks before the holidays, for a hedgehog, I at first thought she was just messing around with me.  After all who would want a hedgehog for a pet.  When she assured me that she was not kidding, that she really wanted one, I asked, "Can you even have a hedgehog for a pet." And "Where would you even get one?"
And this is where the thoughtful part of Emma came into play.  Not only had she researched the care and the expense, but had found a certified Hedgehog breeder, which happened to be only half an hour away from us.  At first I told her, "Absolutely, NO.  I was not going to be taking care of a hedgehog.  I don't have the time or the desire to add one more thing to..."

She stopped me mid sentence and made it very clear that the reason she wanted one was because she wanted to be responsible for it.  Something that was hers,that she would need minimal support with.  She told me the maintenance was reasonable and that she has money saved to contribute to the initial expense and will use allowance money to pay for bedding and food.   After a very long and heartfelt conversation, including an exit strategy in the event that it wasn't working out and a PowerPoint presentation to convince her father, it was decided that Emma would be allowed a hedgehog. 
The teenage years are hard because it's hard in knowing when to step back sometimes and just let them go. Jack is only a year and a half away from college and Emma just 2 ½.  In many ways, they will be on their own to figure out so much.  When Jack walks out the door, gets into a car to dive off with his friends, I just can hope he makes the best choices. 
And this was the lesson for me with Emma and her beautiful, not so soft, hedgehog, Hedgewig Maz.  Step back and let her take lead in this part of her life. 
Driving home with Hedgewig for the first time amusingly reminded me of driving home my first baby for the first time.  Hedgewig was in a box with Emma holding her on her lap.  She was concerned when I drove too quickly over a bump and concerned that he may not be warm enough.  I told her I would drive more carefully and of course I was happy, as a Bikram student, to turn up the heat in the car!
I knew we had made the right choice and was happy for Emma.
During Hedgewig's first few weeks, it was important that Emma handle her daily so she gets used to Emma's scent and identify her as her caretaker to become comfortable with her.  I walked in one night, with Hedgwig and Emma sitting together.  Emma said to me, "I don't think she likes me.  She keeps curling up in a ball when I go to hold her."  I said out loud, "Better get used to that.  It will happen all throughout parenting. You both are just figuring your stuff out together."   At that Emma smiled.
Lessons From A Hedgehog (Featuring a Teenage Girl)
Greetings from the Teenage girl mentioned above! I see my momma has taken a very educated and insightful view into my desire for a hedgehog. I do not have such a view. For me it's simple, Hedgehogs are really cute and I just wanted my own so we can be best friends. Also, it doesn't hurt that now I can look at her adorable little face forever because "I decided a while ago not to deny myself the simpler pleasures of existence" (John Green, The Fault in Our Stars).
I mean just look at Hedgewig's face it's great and I make her sit in little teacups, which I doubt she enjoys but she will learn to love it, and I thoroughly plan to force her to love me; this is a run on sentence but I imagine it represents my thoughts at the moment so I'm sticking with it. Wooh. Deep breath.
Well I hope you've enjoyed my ranting as you've been simply grand for getting through it!
Emma Barrett
Post Scriptum:
The "powerpoint" my mom mentioned above was literally a drawing of a hedgehog on a chalkboard; however, I like to think that my extreme skill at drawing hedgehogs resulted in getting permission to adopt Hedgewig.

POST post Scriptum:
Her name is totally awesome because it is both a pun and a reference to Harry Potter's pet owl, Hedwig. But she's Hedgewig because she's a hedgehog! Ha! Punpunpunpunpun