Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Embrace your strengths.....

This morning in class I noticed that Jessica, one of our dedicated 6am practitioners, had a really gorgeous Cobra pose. She is super flexible, especially in her upper spine. When I started setting the class up for Locust pose, Jessica went in for a third set of Cobra. This is not unusual, especially at 6am when people are just waking up. But I made a joke, "Jessica", I said, "No matter how gorgeous your Cobra pose is, you still don't get to do a third set."
She laughed and set herself up for Locust. "Wouldn't life be great" I thought out loud to the class, "if we could live our lives only doing things we were good at."

I've mused about this idea many times in my blog. Challenge, pushing one's limits, getting outside of our comfort zones..... This morning though, I thought about it differently. Jessica wasn't consciously doing a third set of Cobra. Her body just went there. Maybe her body went there because it was more comfortable there, happy there, with her bendy upper spine. My happy place is in Eagle. I get positive feedback every time I practice when I'm in Eagle. "It's because I have really long arms and legs," I think to myself when I hear the 'good Eagle' compliment, "anyone with long arms and legs can do this posture."

I spend a lot of time trying to cultivate a sense of acceptance when I teach. I spend a lot of time trying to find that place in my personal life too. Acceptance isn't just about acknowledging our limits in class (and in life), taking breaks when we need them, backing off in a posture if necessary. It's also about accepting our strengths, enjoying them, embracing them. Girls and women especially are well-trained to down-play their power. We brush off compliments, deflect that attention in another direction, make it not about us. Over the weekend, I went to a kids' Yoga training where I spent two full days with a handful of people pretty intimately. At the end of the two days, we each had to stand in the middle of a circle while people complimented us!!!! Our only instruction was that we couldn't reply, just receive. I wish I could tell you what these lovely people said to me, but I cannot because I was completely dissociated. Though I smiled and nodded as each person spoke, I could not absorb the words.

After class this morning, I checked in with Jessica, "Did that make sense?" I asked, "That adjustment about your upper spine being super flexible?"

"I'm flexible?" she clarified. "Very" I emphasized. "Thanks," Jessica said quietly. "....I guess. I'm super sore today." I wouldn't have thought for a second that Jessica was sore this morning watching her gorgeous strong Cobra. But maybe she needed to lessen the compliment. Maybe it was too much, the praise. I understand completely.

Jessica has the gift of flexibility and a beautiful Cobra pose. Her body wants to own its flexibility by doing a third set of Cobra. But like many of us, her mind hasn't caught up. As the mother of a daughter, I want to crack this one wide open. I know it starts with me. If I can figure out how to receive, to be open to accepting and embracing my strengths, that's what Lucia will learn. Like everything, it's a practice. As do many things in my life, this practice too will start in the yoga room.......the next time I do Eagle pose.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Catch them being good.

Yesterday I heard a bit of parenting advice that made me want to weep. "Catch them being good" was the simple phrase uttered from a former special education teacher. Whoa. So very simple. So incredibly profound.

Parenting is unbelievably hard work. The hardest. Disciplining your child-- that little sprout that grew so patiently in your belly, the person who depends on you so fully-- is imperative. And painful. Sometimes it can feel like crushing their little spirit, breaking their fragile heart. Constructive discipline is also what's going to help your child grow up to be a pain in the ass or an asset to society. So when I heard "catch them [kids] being good," it was like I was hearing in 10th grade geometry that I could get an A simply by liking parallelograms.

With Lucia, I feel like I catch her doing good often-- at completing her daily reading, at brushing her hair, at practicing piano. These are all things Lucia enjoys so it's not a big deal to note her success with these chores. Other realms-- not interrupting grown up conversation, unloading the dishwasher, hanging up her bathrobe-- are all tasks that Lucia resists. Because of her chronic opposition compliance in these areas, I have developed a narrow lens that sees only the negative when it comes to these responsibilities. Rarely do I note when Lucia proactively does these things. Note to self--- catch her doing good.

I realize in this whole examination of my parenting that one of the reasons I love teaching yoga is how many opportunities I have to catch students "being good." The student who used to leave the room like clockwork to fill his water bottles who now fills two before class. So good. The student who can finally look at herself in the mirror for a full posture. Excellent. Two shoulders in one line. Yes! If I noted in each class how many ways students were being good, I wouldn't be able to teach the nuts and bolts of the class. I have so much gratitude that I get to watch this goodness every day.

Why is the goodness more challenging to catch in my role as a parent? Maybe it is because I have only one child and it's all on her. She's the good, the bad, the everything. As a kid, I was one of several, so there was more to look at, more to compare. It's a good lesson for me. Yes, I need to be firm with Lucia. I want to create a good, solid form in which she can grow to be a person that I am proud of; that she is proud of. At the end of every class I teach, I say goodbye to all the students, one final check in of our time together. On their faces, almost always, I can see that they feel good. They feel proud.

Most of the time it's the experiences in my daily life that I turn into helpful lessons I can impart in my role as a yoga teacher. Catching the goodness is something I learned in the yoga room. Thank you students for teaching me!