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D Sharon Pruitt

D Sharon Pruitt

In trying to come up with meaningful lessons that kids can take off their mats and into their lives, I recently bought a great book called 10 Minute Life Lessons for Kids. The lessons are divided into categories such as Things We Value, Potential and Self-Worth, Love and Kindness and Attitude to name a few. When applying ideas from other sources into my class, I always try to find a yoga slant.

I decided to give my students a lesson on attitude. I strongly believe that what we think about and what we say influences our perspective and the outcome of different situations. This idea was not one that I was taught as a child but really would have helped me growing up.

I first made sure that none of the children had food allergies. I gave each student a Smartie (I chose this type of candy because it dissolves slowly but quickly enough to move onto other things in class when we finished this lesson). The kids were not allowed to eat it until I gave them the go ahead. We all then got into chair pose or a standing squat with backs against the wall. The idea behind this exercise was that while our legs started to burn from our position, we were to suck on the candy and try to keep our thoughts on the sweetness versus the pain.

There will always be difficulties in life but by training ourselves to focus on the sweetness in life even when things are hard we will create a more fulfilling and happier life in the long run.

Photo by D Sharon Pruitt

Every year we as parents must decide in which extra-curricular activities our children participate. The options are many and time is limited. How do you pick what to spend money on to broaden the horizons of one’s brood? A parent who grew up loving a particular sport naturally has the desire to share their experience with the next generation. Others take a more free form tactic and sign up for things based on timing, friends participating and cost.

I realized that times had changed from when I grew up when in second grade kids were trying out for competitive travel leagues and learning from an early age the difference between the A team, B team and C team.  Some kids at the ripe age of 8 were learning what it means not to be good enough for any team. Is that really necessary? Trying out for the freshman soccer team entering high school having never played (as I did back in the 1980s) would not work in this day in age. Kids are driven to pick a sport and excel so that by the time they enter 8th grade a spot on the JV or Varsity team is within their reach. I truly don’t get this attitude and generational shift.

What is the purpose of this intense approach? Are potential scholarships the end goal?  Why has playing kick ball or capture the flag with the neighborhood kids been replaced by structured practices where parents are watching every move? We have created kids who preform for the trophies, the snacks, praise from parents and coaches and these external motivators are shown not to help kids in the real world.

Dr. Tony McGroarty wrote a great article about the differences between external and internal motivation in youth sport. Click here to see the article. Daniel Pink wrote a great book called Drive that addresses the hows and whys of motivation and proves that the common methods our society uses to motivate people at work and school are not effective and can actually be counter productive.

I believe that parents of my generation have forgotten what being a child is all about. I believe that it is important to expose your children to many activities because you do not know what might strike a passion. At some point focusing deeper will be important but that should be when your child knows what really makes them tick. To limit a child’s focus on a sport too early limits their idea of who they are or who they might want to be not to mention that it creates body imbalances that often result in injuries.

Recently I spoke to Kristi Gaylord from Midtown Athletic club (where I am employed) about the benefits of yoga versus dance. Here is a link to the article she wrote discussing the differences between the two activities from a parents and young girl’s perspective. As parents we must chose wisely what types of activities and when to expose them to our children.

There are a lot of benefits to being active in all types of sports. It is the parent’s job to decide what is right for their children. It is also our job to give our children the opportunity to learn about themselves – what they like, what they naturally excel at, what makes them happy and to appreciate the strength of their bodies

I’ve always loved the connection between yoga and life. The work done on the mat finds its shadow in life situations when, for instance, the controlled breath learned through challenging asanas appears during a personal conflict. The outcome being so different when breath replaces immediate action in the midst of discomfort.

I am not a perfect yogi. I am a wife, mother, daughter, runner and teacher. Sometimes life interferes with my practice. I notice when I have neglected my practice. My mind becomes cluttered with worries. My body becomes tight due to running or stress. My reactions become involuntary instead of with purpose. I begin to question myself—my direction and purpose.

Similar to yoga, running has always been an outlet and passion of mine. Running is a form of meditation and way to connect to myself and my friends. Yoga helps my running by aiding me mentally toward achieving my goals be it getting faster or running longer.

This year, instead of focusing on individual running goals, I have found myself signing up for endurance relays. The first was Cast A Shadow this winter. A 6 hour snowshoe race of teams of three. The joining with others to complete a common goal has been motivating but not without an added sprinkle stress. I don’t want to fail my team. I don’t want to be the weak link. On top of the training now lies the fear of disappointing more than just myself.

Next week I will be participating in a new race called the Seneca 7. At 7am teams of 7 will begin to run around Seneca Lake in the Finger Lakes totaling 77 miles and ending by 7pm. I happily joined in on the fun thinking that three legs of about 4 miles each with hours in between talking to my girlfriends would be no problem-a piece of cake. Much to my horror, my teammates (in which half are training for the Lake Placid Ironman) decided to bike the in-between miles. That means no rest. That means big hills. That means a lot of uncertainty.

I have missed yoga due to adding spin classes in the attempts to train for a bike ride that is longer by more than 20 miles than any ride I’ve cycled thus far. I’ve managed a yoga class a week but can tell from my mind and body that I have not done enough. I miss yoga.

After this race I have a few months to begin reconnecting to my practice. I’m determined to immerse myself in yoga this summer. I’ve been accepted in Baron Baptiste’s Level 1 Teacher Training taking place this August in the Catskills. A week of learning and growing. I am excited to take this next step. To be accountable for only myself for a week. To leave my comfort zone. To push myself mentally and physically on my mat instead of on the road or trails for a change. To replenish my soul and then ultimately to come back ready to give and share.

Whether found in quiet focus on one’s yoga mat or flying through a dirt trail in the woods, life’s essential purpose can be discovered through learning, growing and sharing. How do you choose to push yourself, to grow and to live most fully?

Photo by Sharon D. Pruitt

In the last couple of years, I have started to educate myself more and more about food. I have posted here and there about some of my findings and always try to spread the awareness—hopefully without being preachy!

There is so much confusion on the food front. People like Jamie Oliver and blogs like Spoonfed are helping to enlighten (and hopeful then “lighten”) the public.

I recently came across another blog that helps to clarify the link between nutrition and health. NourishMD.com authors, Dr. Sue McCreadle and Angelle Batten (a holistic health and parenting coach), have assembled a very intuitive website that provides information and practical solutions for creating optimal family health. Check out this valuable site to find real information, real recipes and real ways to make changes that will make a real difference in your life and the lives of those you love.

I’m talking pizza. Naked Pizza. A pizzeria opened up nearby in Victor, NY and we have not called our old standby place since. The deal about Naked Pizza is that is has no preservatives, no high fructose corn syrup, no added sugar, no trans fats. It has a blend of up to 10 grains, fiber, probiotics, cheese, veggies and meat. It’s pizza stripped down to its most essential ingredients. It is healthy, tasty and guilt free. In a time of enormous portions, fast food and an abundance of junk food, it is nice to see some people taking notice and giving us positive choices.

When will I figure out how to just coast on this ride of parenting instead of traveling all of the highs and lows with each childhood moment? Don’t misunderstand. Nothing is wrong. It is all in the name of parenting. But, I’ve already gone through adolescence and I don’t want to go there again! How does a parent step away from the drama, sleep without worry and parent effectively. We are expected to give support without lecturing too much or helping too much, discipline when needed even when it causes temporary discomfort for all, step in when there is trouble but not until the child has tried to take care of things solo. Where is that handy manual—telling us how and when to say the perfect thing, showing us when to expect the perfect teachable moment, and explaining in detail how not to be embarrassing to your child when they reach a certain age?

I know that I don’t have as much control or effect as I think. I know that I can lead, teach and advise but my children still need to act and make their own decisions.

So I take 5 minutes to meditate when the desire to fix takes over but the possibility of fixing doesn’t really exist anymore.

An easy meditation:

  • Set your watch for 5 minutes.
  • Turn off your phone. Close your door.
  • Sit comfortably either on the floor with a straight back, gaze slightly down, hands on your knees or in a chair with feet flat on the floor.
  • Say to yourself “Breathe-in one, breathe-out two” while breathing in and out.
  • Let any thought float in but then go back to your breath. Breath in one, breath out two.
  • Simply breathe. It’s that easy.

Photo by Judy Baxter

Food is full of so much more than nutrients or lack there of. It has become a hot topic, a confusing topic and a very big deal. This week I sat on a panel to discuss food in schools and at home. I was on the panel as a parent advocate for better food in schools in my district. Last year I became passionate about real food after being exposed to our nation’s industrial food growing ways while watching Food Inc. and even more enraged after viewing the documentary Two Angry Moms which highlights two mother’s crusade against school cafeteria food.

Here are a few of my recent insights:

  • I don’t hold all of the answers. I think that Michael Pollan’s book “Food Rules” does.
  • The balance between eating well and enjoying life is a difficult one to gauge at times.
  • Packing lunch everyday is as boring as eating that packed lunch everyday. (Yes, this one is for the kids.)
  • A highlight for me from the panel discussion was when a local pediatrician discussed the school menu. Dr. Weinberg said that while most people talk about the long term effects of processed food, she could show the daily effects cafeteria food has on kids and began to point out different menu items declaring what ailments your child might come home with later that day after consuming that days main entree—from asthma from the shrimp poppers and tater tots to migraines from the french toast sticks with ham.
  • My pediatrician once told me not to stock ice cream in the freezer. I can attest to the true treat it was to actually take the kids out for a special ice cream dessert tonight. It was more than a treat. It was an outing. It was family time and I think most importantly, it turned eating into a mindful and enjoyable act. I did notice that the adult menu’s sundae serving size was 3 scoops and the milkshake contained 5 scoops.
  • Restaurants need to become accountable. My pediatrician once told me that eating out should be limited to once a MONTH. I think that is almost impossible to uphold. However, until restaurants begin reducing portion sizes back to true portions, we must help our children make good choices and we must follow suite. Take half the meal in a container to go before it is served, split entrees between family members, avoid the bread basket and explain the menu to your children—what does breaded mean, why the kid’s menu should be bypassed, how a healthy salad can be turned into a disaster if ordered with the dressing premixed.
  • The hardest part about packing lunches everyday is that those lunches must be cold. Yes I have thermoses. No they don’t seem to hold heat. If you have a thermos that actually keeps soup hot enough to see the steam please give a shout out!
  • Organic isn’t just about the lack of commercial pesticides or hormones or antibiotics. It is also an issue of eating food with higher nutrients from animals that have been treated more humanely.

These are just a few of the thoughts on my mind about food. There are so many more to contemplate. Here is a list of great food resources. Bon appetit!

A local journalist writes with insight in her blog Spoonfed about raising children to think about the food they eat.

J.M. Hirsch, the Associated Press food editor and author of my newest favorite cookbook High Flavor Low Labor, also writes a blog called Lunch Box Blues. Hirsch writes about his son’s bento box lunches. I am a huge fan of the the bento styled lunch boxes but could not get my son to buy into the cool concept. Too bad.

The rest of these links are being shared from the panel discussion. Educate, share and eat!

Blogs (many of these are also linked to a web site):

www.thelunchtray.com

www.theyummymummy.blogspot.com/

www.fooducate.com/blog

www.theslowcook.com

www.foodwithkidappeal.blogspot.com

www.fedupwithschoollunch.blogspot.com

www.whatscookingwithkids.com

www.foodpolitics.com

www.itsnotaboutnutrition.squarespace.com

www.littlelocavores.blogspot.com

www.foodietots.com

Lunch/wellness sites:

www.betterschoolfood.com

www.healthylunches.org

www.jamieoliver.com

www.meatlessmonday.com

www.vegmondays.com

www.farmtoschool.cce.cornell.edu

www.schoolwellnesspolicies.org

www.foodpsychology.cornell.edu

www.cspi.org

My practice always surprises me. Recently, I was taking class and feeling very out of breath. I was having unusual difficulty joining breath with asana. I knew that my practice that day was telling me that something was off. Luckily, I have become more attuned to what my body is telling me when I’m on my mat. Instead of pushing, I slowed down and took more rests. That afternoon I began to sniffle. I took some zinc and some black elderberry syrup and rested when my body told me to rest and within three days the sniffles never progressed. I was able to stop the cold before it became debilitating.

I took a cross-fit class last year and, Ron Gordon, the instructor was saying that he takes his pulse every morning. If his pulse is off one way or the other he knows he needs to slow down. He’s avoided viruses by listening to his body’s signs and takes off a day instead of sticking to his training plan.

Being a new year, I have reflected upon last year a lot lately. Although I was incredibly active, my body was not strong last year. I caught every cold that I was exposed to. I added many classes to my roster and continued to ski, snowshoe and run as much as I could. If only I had listened more closely. That is my take home lesson from last year. Listen. Pay attention to the moment; slow down, stop pushing and listen. Our bodies are capable of amazing things. (My husband and I just watched a documentary about three men who ran across the Sahara—running 50 miles DAILY for  111 days…4,300 miles total!) It becomes easy to shut off the signals our bodies give out to slow down. I still drink coffee to push my body to stay awake when it wants to rest. I have gotten better at listening to what my body really needs and will more readily take child’s pose or a restorative pose instead of pushing through.

This new year, try to listen more closely. Close your eyes while practicing on your mat. Turn off the visual stimulation that might signal to your brain to take a pose to the next level. Listen to what your body wants to do TODAY versus what you knew it could do in the past. Treat each day as a special day to learn more about yourself.

Photo By David Eppstein

I’ve climbed to great heights during the last three weeks. In fact, my whole family has. We’ve been frequenting a local climbing gym called Rock Ventures. It turns out that it is the biggest indoor climbing facility in the US. Who knew? To my amazement my seven and eleven year old have ascended the 42′ walls like spiders and have gained some valuable insight into their personal strength-both mental and physical.

Back when my husband and I were just dating, we tried climbing once or twice. We found it thrilling and exhausting. Almost 13 years later, we are back and finding more enjoyment than before. I attribute our recent triumph to yoga. Yes, really! In the past, I recall getting partially up the wall only to have my arms get tired and my legs get shaky. I remember many failed attempts to reach to the top. These days, however, I have not had these outcries of protest from my body or mind. My yoga practice has taught me how to stay focused and calm during uncomfortable moments. It has strengthened my core, legs and arms. Yoga has released tight muscles allowing me to reach or stretch to holds on the wall that were unattainable before. Yoga has taken negative thoughts from my mind and filled my head with positive reinforcements that help me get past a difficult foot or handhold to the next move that brings me success.

May 2011 be the year where you reach for the stars (or the next handhold) and find greater peace, love and yoga. Happy New Year!

Photo by Shaun Dunmall

I have been keeping my eyes open as opportunities are out there waiting to be found. I am a believer in doors opening when others close.

In work, I have spent the year experimenting with different classes and places to teach them. I almost ventured in one direction (starting my own business) before a door opened and I ventured through to see what would happen (teaching for a nice studio). That path didn’t lead me to where I envisioned so now I am rethinking and reviewing while waiting for new opportunities or ideas to reveal themselves.

I am allowing myself the chance to reevaluate what I have done, what has made me happy, what my true intentions are and whether I am achieving those goals in my work. I realize that not everyone has the luxury to stop and reformat their jobs but wouldn’t we be happier working if we all could shift and find what makes us most energized and excited.

Some of the insights that I’ve had are:

To teach skills that help kids navigate their real life experiences and help them become the best that they can be is what inspires me. To teach in environments where kids are dropped off to class because it gives the parent an hour of freedom instead of the child coming with a desire to learn is frustrating and draining. Everyone can benefit from yoga, but being receptive to either the physical or both the mental and physical aspects of the practice must happen before learning occurs. Kids who are forced to come to class against their true desire will not benefit from class and they often take away another child’s right to learn. A child forced into therapy will not benefit from therapy. There needs to be an internal motivation.

With my kid’s after school activities and the need to be available to them, I have a limited amount of afternoon time to dedicate to teaching. I need to find ways to teach and grow my business during the school day.

Yoga has been a part of my life for more than 20 years, however, yoga isn’t my whole universe. I get pulled between being in the studio taking class and being active outdoors. My body is always vacillating between muscle tightness and fatigue from running and soreness from practicing yoga. I am happiest when I can get both studio time and outdoor time into my life regularly. I would love to find ways to combine my two loves into a class.

It is time to replenish my well with a new certification or additional classes to keep me fresh and my creative juices flowing. There is nothing like getting together with a group of people excited to grow and learn. Investing in personal development can only lead to more doors opening.

During this time of year it is easy to get bogged down with the holiday chaos of shopping and baking and parties. It’s important to take some time to reflect upon the year and change course if need be. Take the opportunity to create a plan for the new year and keep looking for those doors to open with possibilities unknown.

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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