I remember the disappointment I felt when September coincided with the beginning of working full-time post-college and not with the excitement of back to school shopping and all that implies. Fall holds in its crisp air the anticipation of a fresh beginning—a clean slate. Now, as a mother, I can relive this excitement once again with my children. I can even feel the charged energy of the impending first day and am craving the joy of possibility for that is what a clean slate is all about.

This summer I have found that as the first day of school approaches, my mind is getting more and more cluttered. Between planning my yoga class schedule and the kid’s after school activities for the year, organizing the house for the entourage of school papers and homework assignments, redoing my son’s room to accommodate the teen that he has become and getting in the last of the summer activities, I seem to have constant chatter in my head.

The noise in my head has muddled my mind—I’ve become more forgetful and reactive. But I know exactly what I need to create a clean slate, a state of possibility, and the key is meditation. I have found that meditating first thing in the morning helps to clear my mind and begin the day with more intention, focus and equanimity.

Taking the time to sit and get centered creates a calmness that carries me forward positively throughout the day. Meditating does not need to be complicated. Follow these instructions to find daily mindfulness.

1. Sit comfortably with a straight spine.

2. Close your eyes and bring attention to your breath. Notice the cool air passing into and the warm air passing out of your nostrils. Notice the different sensations while bringing your attention to each breath.

3. Return to the sensation of your breath if your attention wanders.

4. Start with 5-10 minutes once or twice a day gradually increasing your meditation to 20-30 minutes.

You don’t need new binders or backpacks to start the school year with a clean slate and the excitement of new possibilities. By clearing your mind of daily clutter you can create a fresh start everyday. Meditation might really be the breakfast of champions.

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 Sharon D. Pruitt

My son just returned from an amazing summer experience with Adventure Treks. The camp prides itself on its culture of community and being a place where kids can be in the great outdoors, challenge themselves, have fun and be their best selves. According to director John Dockendorf, although many Adventure Treks trips take place across the country, each group learns similar messages:

That you can accomplish more with the unconditional support of your friends.
That doing more than your share is a good thing.
That happiness comes from being part of something bigger than oneself.
That effort and reward are related.
That you can accomplish more than you think.
That you can have the time of your life without a computer, a cell phone, a video game or facebook.
And that good friends are a lot more important than stuff.

My son came home with new friends, new insights about himself, greater self-confidence and a different perspective about his world and his life’s potential.

It is so easy to think that the young have all the fun, that as adults we have already had our wild and carefree moments. I recently read Jim Rohn’s quote,“The ultimate reason for setting goals is to entice you to become the person it takes to achieve them”. It made me think about how as we get older, it is so important to continue to set goals, to be challenged and to step into the fear of the unknown. That it is during those moments when we grow and feel alive. It is not just time for our kids to have these experiences. It is what makes life fun and joyous and full. Everyone deserves to be their best selves and live life to its fullest.

So what adventure are you going on? Take on your fears and live a little.

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.

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.

Photo by D. Sharon Pruitt

This week I decided to take out the balls. Balls in yoga? I know… it may not be traditional but it is a fun and helpful way to teach asana!

There are many ways to use balls in class.

Core strengthening:

To start class we pass a ball around with our feet. Sitting in a modified boat pose, we pass the ball around the circle. When you receive the ball, you must hold it up with your feet and answer questions about yourself before passing the ball to your neighbor. I love starting the class with the kids sharing information about themselves. It creates a teacher/student connection that helps maintain classroom management.  Sometimes I introduce smaller balls that involve greater dexterity and concentration.

Another core exercise is to hold boat pose while twisting side to side touching the ball to the ground each side.

Plow practice:

Begin with the kids lying flat on their backs with hands extended above their heads. Place balls between feet and have the children lift the ball over their heads to their hands. Then have the kids sit up holding the ball using their stomach muscles. If you are using one ball, each student can toss you the ball from a reclined position which also activates the core.

Forward and back bends:

Have the class line up in a row. Using one ball, the first in line does a back bend and passes the ball to the person in back of them over their head, that person does a forward bend and passes the ball between their legs. Repeat this sequence down the line.

More back bends:

Students begin standing on their knees. Using a giant exercise ball, place the ball between their legs and have them lean back opening their chest in a modified camel pose.

Students turn onto their stomachs with arms extended toward their legs. Place the ball on their lower backs and have them reach up to hold the ball while lifting their legs off the ground in a modified bow pose. I find that kids don’t always understand the process of lifting their chests off the ground in a locust or bow pose. Reaching up for the ball helps create a connection of lifting and opening the chest.

Full back bend:

Starting in mountain pose. The kids sit on the large exercise ball and begin to walk their legs forward until the ball is resting on their lower back. The kids can then open their chest and reach toward the floor. Not all children like to be suspended in this vulnerable way. Ask if they would like you to support them floating on the ball if their feet start to lift before their hands touch the floor.

Breathing fun:

Ending class with fun breathing exercises using pom poms. Have the kids count how many breathes it takes to blow their pom pom from one end of the room to the next and then see if they can reduce the number of breaths on the way back.

Kids love balls. What better way to engage and have fun while teaching valuable asana form.

If you live in Upstate New York, this week has brought much disappointment along with about five inches of snow. Just the following week I brought out the deck furniture, basked in the warmth of the sunshine and felt the hope of spring emerging. The grass was clear of any remaining white signs of winter. The crocuses were starting to pop out of the newly defrosted earth.

Then Wednesday arrived and the snow began.

People, quickly forgetting how to drive in the inclement weather, scattered the sides of roads waiting for tows. The feeling of disbelief hung as heavy as the snow falling down. March. It is not as if I have not lived here for the majority of my life. There is always one last snow storm. Why do I always fall for the spring time joke in March? It is really not yoga minded of me to create this great expectation of the future. To take in every moment as the only moment that matters whether it is cold and wet or filled with the smell of blossoms blooming is being present and mindful. So I will try to find the good in each day, even with a blanket of snow covering the garden wonders awaiting for their time to shine. Mother nature has many wonders and surprises and I will try to be open and grateful to them all.

Lion Pose
  • Kneel on the floor with ankles crossed and perineum rests on the top heel.
  • Press palms firmly against knees with splayed fingers.
  • Take a deep breath in through the nose while opening your mouth wide, looking toward your  third-eye and stretching your tongue out toward the chin. Exhale slowly out through the mouth with a “ha” sound.
  • Repeat roar two or three times and then switch cross of ankles and repeat.
Lion pose relieves tension in the chest and face… and who doesn’t need a loud roar once in a while!

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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