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Photo by Sharon D. Pruitt

Letting go is a big part of yoga. We let go of the past. We let go of worrying about things in the future. We concentrate on the moment at hand. It is not always easy. Try sitting quietly for 5 minutes and see what pops up in your head. Keeping our mind open is challenging but it is a worthy goal. A clear mind allows us to act instead of react. It creates a peace and calmness that is beneficial to creating a healthy life.

As parents, one of our main jobs is to raise our young to be independent enough to let them go live their own lives. But that is not always easy either. There are many moments a parent must loosen the invisible leash (and no, I don’t believe in those real kid leashes you see people using in the malls or amusement parks). Switching from nursing to bottles, taking the school bus to first sleepovers, we must continue to allow our children room to move and grow. Sometimes I find that my child has been straining against the invisible leash and I have to quickly give out some more line when bedtimes need to be extended or cell phones need to be granted. It is hard to be present to the changes that are occurring in our children daily.

My son has begun to take his leash in his own hand this summer. With the courage of someone much older, he boarded a plane to attend an amazing adventure camp called Adventure Treks. For 16 days he will be in the wilderness backpacking, mountain climbing, caving, mountain biking, white water rafting and sea kayaking. The day he left I felt out of sorts. I was melancholy. It wasn’t until I saw a picture of him posted with a smile – a real smile – was I able to breathe. This trip will be a big push in letting go for both of us. I can’t wait to see how it manifests itself once home. The room he thought was too small will feel luxurious. Hopefully the texting cell phone that he desires will feel unnecessary too! I am trying to stay in the present and not project how he will be once home—more distant, extra loving, annoyed that he must spend the rest of the summer with mom. Who knows. What I do know is when I got a surprise call from him the other day he sounded different. His voice was deeper! He is changing and as a parent I must keep up with those changes. Stay in the present. Take some deep breaths and smile on toward the future.

Here is a five minute meditation video. Give it a try!

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


Final recitals, final exams, final days of school are all colliding. Weather has finally warmed up and rain soaked lawns have dried out. Summer is upon us with the expectation of new possibilities and adventures all helping to push the pace of these final days until vacation.

Last summer I lamented about the busy schedule that my kids kept with different camps which amounted to a lot of driving to and from places. This summer is sure to be very different. With one child still busy with day camps, the other has two weeks away with the remainder of the summer filled only with evening commitments three times a week and nothing but time during the day. Coming from a family where my parents decided for us that that we would go to sleep away camp all summer long (thankfully we loved it), the idea of staying home with no camps lined up has always been an intriguing thought.  A summer of sleeping in, reading, riding bikes and swimming. Calling each day as it comes. Savoring the moments of summer in a leisurely manner. It sounds really nice to me.

But how will my big camper handle such a summer? Recently I decided to shed light on the fact that I will still have my usual things to do that typically happen sight unseen while the kids are at school or camp. Laundry, groceries, organizing and teaching some classes are still on my plate summer vacation or not. This means some necessary down time and the thought of down time did not sit well with my big camper. A child used to camps with cruise director styled activities with a whole unscheduled summer ahead will have a lot to learn about down time. Yes. This summer will be very different. I can’t wait to see what we all learn.

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.

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.

I love that yoga is called a practice. The word practice implies ongoing work. It implies working toward something and every time I get on my mat I know that I have work to do. I am not being judged or timed. I am not even trying for perfection. I am listening to my body as it is on that day on my mat and deciding what my practice is going to look like. It looks different every time. What I get out of yoga is internal and external strength, mind and body connection, awareness and skills to bring off my mat.

Team sports are so very different. There is practice toward achieving some kind of perfect—a dismount, swing, lay up, or play on the field or court. There is judgment, quality control and comparisons. But this weekend I saw some life lessons learned from a swimmer that aligned a lot with yoga.

My son’s district swim meet was Sunday. Having only raced this year, he was nervous about a big event with many teams competing and many parents watching. Since the season’s September start, coach Christine said she would transform him from a recreational swimmer into a racer and the change is notable. Each swimmer was assigned three races with the choice to make changes. Two of the three events were races that my son felt comfortable with but the third event left him in a panic. With the choice of a challenging longer distance or another race in his comfort zone, my husband and I were pleasantly surprised that he chose the harder and more demanding event.

For the entire week preceding race day, I saw an inner fire begin to build, a desire to improve and practice harder than ever and pure fear troubling his mind. With some great motivational speeches given by his dad (and a pre-race viewing of Rocky), my son started to tackle his fear replacing thoughts of doubt with affirmations of success, creating visual reminders to psych himself up for the task at hand and music to clear his mind of negative thoughts. Come race day, he was still scared but ready to take on this meet.

It is easy as a parent to see your child suffering and want to remove that pain. According to Buddha, life is suffering. To remove the pain or suffering is ultimately a disservice to our children. Teaching our children how to manage suffering and how to overcome suffering equips them with the power to find ultimate happiness.

At the end of the day, my son was walking taller. He even had a bit of a swagger. He took on his fear and squashed it. He found calm and strength through the fright and doubt. He found inner strength through the physical act of swimming, he found the mind/body connection, he found skills that he will use through out his life and he found a way to happiness.

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

Photo by Gustavo Veissimo

My daughter’s second grade teacher pointed out to me recently how truly amazing school aged children are to be able to harness all of their energy into listening, paying attention, walking in straight lines and staying quiet for almost 8 hours every day in school. It is no wonder that during recess on the playground and on the bus ride home from school chaos seems to rule. All of that bottled up energy is ready to explode by the time our children have a moment of “free” time.

As a yoga instructor teaching my classes after a full day of school, I have often struggled with how to rein in some of that energy that naturally needs to come out. I often wonder where that balance is between needed energy releasing and a calm class environment. I have found a few ideas that help to bring the energy level back down. These ideas can easily be tailored to work in your own home.

I often have excited kids running into my class eager to get moving. I hate to begin class with a negative comment but also am not fond of starting my class with kids running around the studio.

  • To get the kids ready for yoga as they walk into the room, I meet each child before they enter the studio holding a few objects in hand. Explain to the kids that the twins of these objects are hidden in plain sight around the studio. The kids must stand at a designated wall quietly and use their eagle eyes to search for each object. When they have found all three objects, they must find a mat and sit quietly until everyone else is sitting.
  • The game “Yoga Toes” always seems to quiet the room down. Scatter small pom poms around the room and have the kids collect the pom poms with their toes by crunching them around the pom poms and walking them to a designated area with a cup or bucket for dumping. In class, I tend to avoid games that create competition with each other and instead play the game twice having the kids remember their first number of collected pom poms and try to best their own score. This game takes a lot of concentration.
  • Coloring is an activity that any child can do and using some quiet background music sets the tone. I print out mandalas and use the time coloring to help foster calmness. If done without a lot of speaking, mandala coloring is very meditative.
  • This idea gets the kids working hard on their own. I have many types of cards depicting yoga poses. Hand each child 5 cards. Go over all of the poses with the children as a group and then have them come up with their own sequences—trying to find the one that flows the best. When they have worked out which sequence moves best from one pose to the next, have them teach the rest of the class.
  • Lately I have started my classes with a little mediation. I light a candle and have the kids sit quietly looking at the light. We started with one minute and will be working ourselves up to 3 minutes. It is amazing how hard being still and being quiet is for some kids. I know many adults that to this day cannot sit still with themselves. What an amazing skill to foster.

I hope these ideas help when needed. I’d love to hear some ideas that you have to create a peaceful and calm environment in your studios and homes.

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 Thomas Hawk

I feel so much better since this fact has been divulged. I have tried so hard to be something that I am not. I felt like I was wearing a costume (no… not a French maid’s costume!). I tried to pretend I was able to do it all and do it all well. But it is not true. The closets in my house hold the truth. Bleach stained sheets folded neatly (OK fine…shoved in) the laundry closet. Wrinkled pants stacked on shelves. Clean laundry put away immediately after hearing the beep of the dryer on its last spin cycle… ha! I am not proud of the fact that I am constantly re-washing clothes because of wrinkles or stains or because the kids just throw their clean clothes back into dirty hampers to avoid hanging them up. But I will admit that since coming clean with my problem, I have stopped resenting the laundry. I have found that without the fight to protect my image of being the perfect homemaker, I have actually found more appreciation for the items I am cleaning and I am doing a better job of caring for them. I have been removing clothes before the “wrinkle free” spin cycle stops and hanging them to dry those last few minutes. I have found new pride in my laundry skills as I have found more mindfulness in the process.

If life is about these little moments, then I have added more time in my days by being mindful about the chores that must get done… just don’t take out the white glove for the dust test just yet!

Energizing Washing Machine Breath:

Place your hands on your shoulders.
With your head facing center, inhale through the nose.
Turn your torso and head to the right and exhale.
Inhale back to center.
Turn your torso and head to the left and exhale.
Repeat.

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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