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I saw the movie Bully this weekend. It was very tough to watch. I left the movie feeling frustrated as I didn’t feel the movie’s conclusion left the audience with a great deal of  hope.

The next day I got onto my mat and practiced and I didn’t think about the movie. I moved and breathed and I listened to the messages of tuning in and being present shared by my teacher. Soon after, I realized that yoga is part of the solution. The yogic principle of Ahimsa, compassion or doing no harm, teaches us that we must first find compassion for ourselves before we spread that compassion to those around us. As I am about to embark on teaching middle school aged girls to find their power and to find their voice, it occurred to me that underneath all of that is teaching them how to treat themselves with compassion.  At a certain age self-judgement begins to increase as fitting in with the group begins to take priority. Judging oneself becomes judging others. Being untrue to our authentic self becomes not respecting differences in others. Talking about our different bodies and our different strengths and weaknesses, demonstrating that we practice yoga to accept how our bodies and minds are different every time we get on the mat and sharing that these differences are OK, that these differences are what make us unique and special and powerful happen so naturally on the mat. I don’t know where else this message of self-acceptance occurs in a child’s life. When is the message that you are perfect just the way you are taught outside of the home? Even within the home most of us expect our children to get great grades, excel in sports and have many friends—we expect our kids to fit in a box of “the typical child”.

Until kids accept their differences, they won’t accept others. Until kids realize that happiness lies not with fitting in but with tuning in and self-love, there will always be judgement and cruelty.

The blog Pigtail Pals reminds us that we start life believing that we are awesome. We need to find ways to keep that belief alive. And for those who sadly start life with a different message, through the practice of yoga they too can find peace, self-acceptance and self-compassion. Spreading compassion will remove the problem of bullying. I believe that yoga is key.

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It occurred to me while I was participating in my Baron Baptiste Level 1 Teacher Training that everyone there arrived with baggage and not just the obvious duffle bags and suitcases. We all came with stories from our past that we’ve taken for truths that create limiting thoughts and don’t serve us on our life’s journey. In truth, this may just be part of life and growing up. But what if there was a way to prevent some of that baggage? Instead of seeking therapy, hiding in destructive behaviors such as eating disorders, drugs and alcohol use or risky sexual behavior to flee from our feelings, what if we learned to tune in and understand our feelings and our inner voice? If given the skills at an early age to help us tune in to our true self instead of tuning out by escaping through texting, music, tv, Facebook and video games, might we avoid the adult versions of feeling avoidance?

Thankfully I don’t have to recreate the wheel. A friend and fellow yogi, Dr. Catherine Cook-Cottone,  that I met during my teacher training developed a program for 5th-7th grade girls to teach them skills to help them navigate through life’s ups and downs. I am fortunate to be able to bring the program to life this spring in my home town. Dr. Cook-Cottone tested her program through the University of Buffalo where she teaches psychology for effectiveness in preventing destructive behavior in this population (specifically eating disorders). The program never focuses on a specific destructive behavior as it uses positive psychology and active learning techniques. The results were positive. By teaching teens awareness of their feelings and how they create thoughts and actions, the girls learn that they have opportunities to make good choices. Using yoga, discussion, journal writing and art, the girls explore who they are, what they feel and what their inner voice has to say. They leave empowered and with real skills and tools to help them through their life’s journey. Maybe these girls will avoid some of the pitfalls that my generation fell into or maybe they will fall too but with a greater understanding of themselves to be able to pick themselves, dust themselves off and leave the baggage behind.

Current Classes:

MIDTOWN ATHLETIC CLUB

Mondays:
6-7:15am Power Vinyasa (H)

Thursdays:
6-7am Power Vinyasa

Story Time Yoga
1-1:45pm

Sundays:
5-7 year olds
9:45-10:30am
8-11 year olds
10:45-11:30am

STUDIO MOVE!

Wednesdays:
10:30-11:30 Power Vinyasa

Fridays:
Yoga for Athletes
9-10am

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