Yoga, Parenting, and (Usually) Keeping my Cool – by Melanie Lora Meltzer

I haven’t taught public classes in almost 3 years—I stopped just before the birth of my daughter Luciana, who will be 3 at the end of July. My husband and I welcomed a little boy, Huck, in early January of this year. Parenting is yoga in action 24 hours a day—along with the indescribable love and joy I feel for my kids there are the skills of staying present, navigating the uncomfortable or the unknown, being willing to get back up when I fail miserably, and showing up no matter what.

When I was pregnant with Luciana I had many of my students say to me “You’ll be a great mom—you are so nice—you must never get mad.” That always made me laugh—ask my husband: I have a hot temper and I’ve unleashed it in plenty of moments I’ve regretted. Since I’ve become a mother it’s been more important to me than ever that I not let myself fly off the handle on any sort of regular basis—and anyone with a toddler knows that’s a tall order on some days.

For me, as I’m sure for many of you, the physical and spiritual elements of my practice are intertwined. My soul feels lighter as my body lets go of tensions on my mat, and if I’ve had a breakthrough in my spirit my asana practice reflects that in more stability, more agility, more ease. As I’ve thought about how to regulate emotions when it seems impossible, I’ve found myself thinking of what I do on my mat when I’m overwhelmed, frustrated, or feel defeated. They work on my mat and they work with my kids.

1. Breathe: Luciana has sat and watched many times as I’ve closed my eyes and taken some deep breaths. It may look weird, but it’s much better than using a tone I’ll want to take back. Yoga is where I feel like I learned to breathe.

2. Observe: Much as I observe my body and my limitations and abilities while I practice, I try to observe myself in a challenging moment as a mom. I try to let any judgement go. If I have the wherewithal I ask myself what’s coming up; I remind myself this is a moment, it’s not forever, and that I can stay calm. I can stay calm.

3. Faith in myself: at the end of the day I can beat myself up (and I have. Lots.) for the moments that were so wildly imperfect. Or I can rest knowing I did the very best that I could and I’ll get to try again tomorrow. Kids—and adults and yoga poses—are always evolving. There are no last chances.

I do get mad. But that it’s not the first or even tenth thing that someone notices about me lets me know that, as always, my practice reaches over and helps me in my life as long as I keep showing up for it.

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IMG_0619_RMelanie is a Los Angeles based actress and yoga teacher. Her acting career has been largely in theatre (what? in LA? Yes. There is great theatre in LA.) and television commercials; though she’s had forays onto the large and small screen, most recently in the beautiful film I am I with Simon Helberg and Jason Ritter, premiering at the Newport Beach film festival. Melanie is also a yoga teacher, and was on the schedule at Yoga Works from 2001 until 2011, when she stopped teaching classes a month before her daughter Luciana was born. She currently teaches privately and online at myyogaworks.com.  She started her blog, Figs and Feathers, as a way to have a creative outlet that she was in charge of. It’s evolved into a place she posts about being a mother and an artist and where the two worlds meet.

Two Trees Grow in Brooklyn – by Elizabeth Neuse Flint

Aborigines call the placenta the “Tree of Life”. They say that if you bury it in the ground and plant a tree over it, your child will be a well-behaved teenager. We’ll have to wait about 13 years to see if this is true.

My son, Griffin was born 18 months ago at home, in our rental apartment in Brooklyn. My husband, Nick, really wanted to plant a tree to commemorate his birth. We don’t have a backyard so we decided to plant it in a square of dirt between sidewalk slabs on our street that had been barren for the past 4 years. My dad and Nick purchased a cherry blossom sapling and enlisted the help or our nosy, chain-smoking neighbor to plant the tree (and the placenta) in this patch of land. We didn’t get permission from the City. Considering the magnitude of issues the City of New York deals with daily we thought they wouldn’t mind. We were wrong.

About four weeks after the tree moved into it’s new home, I found it uprooted and flung against the side of our nosy neighbor’s building. It felt like my heart had been ripped out. I ran upstairs crying. “See, this is the kind of thing that only happens in this city!” I sobbed to Nick. “Let’s move to the country where we can plant as many trees as we want!” He hugged me until I stopped crying and then went downstairs to investigate.

He found out that our neighbor saved the tree from the city workers who pulled it out. They said its branches were too low and therefore dangerous to pedestrians. You know what is dangerous to pedestrians? Walking into on-coming traffic with headphones on while texting, but they do that everyday!

Nick pointed out that at least they planted something there- a different kind of tree with higher branches- in a spot that had been a receptacle for cigarette butts. He placed the cherry blossom in a pot and brought it into the breezeway of our building. Then he visited the Parks Office a few blocks from our home. They agreed to plant the sapling in the park for us. Although the tree didn’t bloom the first year, Nick carried a gallon jug of water in the stroller every few days and soaked the ground around it. Our neighbor smoked cigarettes and watered the City’s tree daily with a hose from his garage.

This year when spring finally sprung we witnessed the gorgeous pink blossoms blooming on Griffin’s little tree in the park. My heart cracked open. I could see the perfection of life unfolding in a situation I had once seen as cause for suffering. There was the tree copykindness of my father, our neighbor and the parks department workers, my baby’s father taking wonderful care of a living thing out of the love he feels for our child. And we ended up with not one, but two trees for Griffin.

The Yoga Sutras offer the practice of Pratipaksha Bhavanam, flipping the meaning of something as a way out of suffering. It took me 18 months, but when I was finally able to do this I felt like I had been freed from my self-imposed sense of separation. If I step back even further I can see that all the trees in the park are there for every one of us to enjoy. We no more own a tree than we own our child. We are simply the caretakers for a little while of a few living creatures in this vibrant ecosystem. And finally, my original thought was actually true. This IS something that would only happen in New York.

Namaste,

EJ
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YW Headshot

For 13 years Elizabeth has practiced and taught yoga and meditation around the globe. She is a Senior Teacher and Teacher Trainer at YogaWorks in New York. Elizabeth is also a writer, life coach and mother. She sees life itself as our greatest teacher, especially in New York City. Visit her website at www.ejneuse.com.

Let’s Grow Yoga – by Vytas

Untitled copyI teach yoga every day. Yep. That’s right, every single day. I don’t have a day off. That’s because I love what I do and am more than happy to make yoga a big part of my life’s purpose. I will admit though, it is difficult to stay inspired day in and day out. Sometimes the greater good of what I’m doing gets drowned out in its repetitive nature. Even though I firmly believe that sharing yoga with people is making the world a better place, I’m guilty of losing perspective from time to time.

Recently I led a challenge with some fellow yoga teachers on social media to help grow yoga. The idea was to ask participants to share yoga with people they knew that had never practiced before. For some of us, finding people who don’t do yoga was quite a task – all of my friends and family have at least tried it before. But living in a city as diverse as Los Angeles, there are opportunities abound. When I left my social circle and began asking different people in the city if I could teach them yoga, things began to unfold beautifully. I met so many people from different walks of life that had never tried yoga before but were eager to learn. The response was overwhelmingly positive and I was reminded of why this discipline is something that I’ve devoted my life to. In giving of myself to others, I was given a newfound inspiration for what I do.

Yoga has the ability to heal people. Not only physically, but on deeper levels of the mind and the heart. I challenge all of you that have been touched by this practice to reach out and share it with someone new. Bring them to a beginner class. Gift them a few months subscription to MyYogaWorks. There are still millions of people out there that need yoga. You have the power to help. Lets Grow Yoga!

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Check out Vytas’ online yoga classes on MyYogaWorks or take his live class at YogaWorks Main Street in Santa Monica, California.

www.vytasyoga.com

Meditation is HARD — by Lainie Devina

Making time to actually practice the internal work of yoga, on the surface for many seems daunting. It should. First, you need to find a quiet space to practice – same time each day and definitely the same location. Of course you will need a proper cushion to sit on and maybe even a blanket to cover your body that matches the decor in your room. It should be light enough for the summer months and warm enough for the winter. I forgot, if you have children, you will need to wake up at 4am to make a meditation practice work – and having a special alarm clock with lovely chimes is a priority. If you plan on including pranayama, chanting or affirmations, you will need the right app for your phone to keep time – this way you are not distracted looking at the clock to make sure you’ve met your goal. All of this is before you even take a breath to quiet your thoughts or sit still long enough to notice your inner world. And please forget the whole idea if you don’t have 30 minutes to dedicate to your new meditation practice… every. single. day. EXHAUSTING!

Lainie's Meditation MyYWAs you can tell, by how ridiculous the above sounds, it’s simply not true. There is no need for the above list… I’m someone who likes toys. It’s fun to have the special clocks, pretty cushions and the like – but it’s not necessary in the least. If you have 5 free minutes, you have time to begin a meditation practice. Everyone has 5 minutes. Period. I say to my students, “If you don’t have 5 minutes, what about 2?”

Take 5 minutes to sit anywhere, anytime, anyplace. Sitting in the pickup line at your kids school (this is my go to time and location), after waking up, sit on the floor in your room or even your bathroom if you are feeling self conscious with your partner nearby. If you are on your break at the office, sit in an empty conference room. There are unlimited examples of the Wheres & Whens. What about in the parking lot before or after your dentist appointment – Or right after you brush your teeth at night, just before bed. When my mind says I don’t have the time today and I can’t possibly fit it in… there is ALWAYS time and there is ALWAYS a place.

You don’t need a special technique to begin meditating… in the next paragraph, I’ll share some simple techniques, but even those aren’t required. All you have to do is sit down and take a pause in your day. Allow your body to sit still and draw your attention inside. You might find that your thoughts are loud. Ok, they are loud. Good. You have just begun a mindful meditation practice by simply stopping and paying attention to what your mind is saying. That’s enough. It’s a beginning that you can do daily for months before you dabble in a specific technique. It’s 5 minutes, or 2 depending on how much you fight me on your time constraints! Nothing magical has to happen. You will not reach enlightenment, but you will have created a moment for yourself to pay attention. That’s enough.

Once you are in a rhythm of taking 5 minutes a day for yourself, you might consider focusing your attention with 1 of the below:

Try noticing your breath – focus on both your inhalations and exhalations. Feel the sensation of how the breath glides through your nostrils.

If you are drawn toward a Mantra, you can say IN on the inhalations and OUT on the exhalations (I personally say EX on the exhalations because I like matching words).

Another technique is to count your breath: IN 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 – OUT 5, 4, 3, 2, 1.

You don’t need anything more right now. You don’t need the perfect mala beads, or the yummy smelling essential oil that is purported to take you to a spiritual place, or even the fabulous artwork to inspire you to your heart center.

All you need to do is begin.

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Lainie Devina's Headshot 2014Lainie Devina is a highly-regarding yoga teacher, Teacher Training and Mentor in the YogaWorks Professional Program. Lainie came from a world of dance and was influenced to look outside of herself for approval and acceptance. After a career-ending back injury, she was lost. She began practicing yoga in her early 20’s and as each year passes, she finds deeper layers of wisdom and strength within herself. Visit Lainie’s website, like her on Facebook, or follow her on Instagram or Twitter @lainiedevina.

 

Day 28 – YOU DID IT! Last Day of the 28-Day Spring Yoga Challenge

28day-spring-yoga-challenge-day28

Today is the final day of 28-Day Spring Yoga Challenge.  I have been overwhelmed and overjoyed by the response this Challenge has garnered and the number of people that have participated.  Today your class is Relax & Restore*, followed by Mindful Meditation.

Today’s guided meditation class is 10-minutes. It is up to you to employ all of the skills you have learned and have been practicing over the last month to take on the challenge of sitting for ten minutes, no small feat.  You can sit quietly, engaged in mindful meditation, you’ve worked toward it and you can do it!

As we close the challenge, I want to share some thoughts about how I keep up ongoing  healthy habits in hopes that it helps you keep up yours!

First, I find it really helpful to have a routine. I always get up and meditate in the morning and if I don’t plan to take a class later, that’s when I practice as well.  A routine acts as a structure, just like the challenge, to support good habits.

Second: I learned through an elimination diet that I had some food allergies.  I focused on how much better I felt with the foods that irritate my system out of my diet to help me commit to keeping them out.

Finally: I set out each day committed to change and to sticking to what I know makes me happier and healthier. That doesn’t mean I don’t  fall off the wagon at times, of course I do!  I just try to forgive myself immediately, have compassion, get back up and start again.  There has to be a little freedom, patience, persistence, forgiveness and commitment all combined together for successful change to happen.  And the most important thing I remind myself all day, every day is to be in the moment and pay attention so I can make wise choices.  Hopefully this challenge helped you on that path too.

Please share all of your success stories with me, either by posting on the Facebook Group page or tweeting me with the hashtag #springyogachallenge.

I hope you enjoyed participating as much as I did.  I encourage you to revisit these yoga classes and continue taking your favorite ones on a regular basis.

Commit to change.

Alexandria Crow

* This class uses a bolster, if you do not have one, try a stack of blankets or a stiff pillow. If you don’t have blocks use thick books. If you don’t have a strap, use a soft belt from your robe or an old tie (OR, order a set of real yoga props here).

Day 26 – What Will It Take For You To Continue This Routine?

28day-spring-yoga-challenge-day26Hopefully, this has become your new favorite vinyasa class, get ready, we are doing A Little Bit of Everything* one last time, followed by Mini Meditation.

Beginners, you are back to Everything You Need, followed by Mini Meditation.

As you build a new routine of practicing yoga and meditation daily and being mindful of your nutrition choices, I want you to really think what it would be like to continue on this path after the 28-Day Spring Yoga Challenge has ended.  What steps can you take to commit to your new habits sticking after the challenge is over.  Make a list of how you can stick to your new healthy ways and don’t forget, when it comes to fitting yoga into your busy life, MyYogaWorks can help!

I also encourage you to share your final thoughts with the group on the Challenge Facebook Page.

Tomorrow you have a REST day, enjoy it!

Alexandria Crow.

* This class uses blocks and a strap. If you do not have blocks, use books, and substitute a soft belt for a strap.