Story Time Yoga

Last week the first official class of my new company JEM YOGA NYC began. I was nervous at first, bur once I got into the flow of leading the class it felt like I was soaring. I was back at it and had that feeling of “this is what I’m meant to do.” And the best part? Em was right there with me.

Em is used to going to classes and is also used to doing yoga with me at home. I think in her mind it was just a normal day! She went with the flow, did some poses, joined me for savasana and proudly said, “Bye Bye Yoga!” as I put away the little yoga mat I had brought.

I felt so much emotion when I got home last week after class, but the biggest one of all was pride for my baby. I put my passion for teaching on hold for a while when she came into this world, and to come back now feeling like my heart is more full than ever? I just feel so blessed!

Story Time Yoga Class 1Story TIme Yoga Class 2

 

 

That Moment 

I hadn’t taught kids in quite some time when I began teaching a few classes at a preschool last month. I was rusty and a little awkward and felt like it went… okay.

This morning I taught again and I felt my confidence in teaching surfacing again. It by no means went perfectly but there was this moment. 

It was when I walked into the last classroom and a girl was screaming crying and the kids were running and it was so loud. I sat down and began taking deep breaths, and something miraculous happened; the kids got silent and followed. 

We took a few breaths together and it was quiet and calm. And THAT moment, the brief pause between the lesson plan and the noise and the crying and the excited screaming and the running and the diving hugs, THAT is why I love sharing yoga with kids. 

If you watched a class it wouldn’t look like a clean and tidy yoga practice that’s tied in a bow. It would look a little messy and loud. But I’ve taught long enough to know that kids are sponges taking it all in in their own way. And what a gift for me today to bring them a moment of calm without saying a word. 

Mom Yoga, Toddler Yoga

Today I got in a yoga practice and it felt so good. I was able to do this because of Emily’s fascination with shoes. You see, she spent most of this time off to the side trying to get on her sneaker!

She wasn’t the least bit frustrated or annoyed as she did this over and over again, even though she never actually got her sneaker on. She was just content to be in the moment practicing something.  Isn’t it amazing how focused a child can be when exploring something they are interested in?

Emily reminded me of one of the Niyamas or observances in yoga called Santosha. Santosha means finding satisfaction in exactly who we are and where we are without wanting to change anything.

I am grateful that today we both got in a yoga practice. I got in my yoga through the poses (asana) and Emily got in her yoga by practicing her one-pointed focus (dharana) during her shoe-putting-on investigation!

Always Stretching

Over the weekend a friend of mine and I were talking about yoga. He told me how he and his wife joke around and say, “Why is Jessica always stretching?”

I thought about it and they’re right. I am always stretching!

If I’m hanging out with friends or family in my home I’m most likely sitting on the floor doing some forward bends. If I’m sitting on the couch at a friend’s house I’m probably sitting cross-legged and doing some twists. I don’t really think about it. I just do it. It’s second nature.

Ever since I was tiny I’ve always been a mover. First a jazz, ballet and tap dancer. Then a modern dancer. Then a yogi. Almost every job I’ve ever had has involved moving my body. I tried a job sitting at a desk once. I lasted one month.

This past weekend I began filming a video for my childhood dance studio. It’s the 30th anniversary of the studio’s opening and I’m honored to be creating a tribute video for the occasion. I was deeply moved by the teachers’ performances of heartfelt solos. Something inside of me stirred as I watched them, and it continues to stir.

I’ve since began editing the footage and it bring tears to my eyes every time. The purity of it all. The movement. The music. The beauty. The passion. And it’s all there because of the amazing success of my childhood dance studio. And guess what? That’s the place where I learned how to stretch.

I can’t help but cry as I think. Yes, I am always stretching. And it’s because of where I came from.

 

 

See What’s in Front of You

I’ve learned a whole lot in my first year of motherhood, and there’s one big lesson I want to share.  I’m learning to see what’s in front of me rather than getting carried away with my worries.

This past year with each big change in Emily’s development I found myself getting overwhelmed and even scared. A few milestones that stand out in my mind are switching her from her bassinet to her crib, introducing her to solid foods, giving her supplemental formula, and teaching her to fall asleep on her own through sleep training.  All of these changes seem small in hindsight but seemed insurmountable at the time.

I found myself becoming obsessed with the BEST way to do things. I told myself if I made the “wrong” decision I would cause serious damage to Emily. I’m not kidding when I say I would run away to crazy places in my mind.

The thing is when I look back I see that even if I did things differently, Emily would be totally fine.  There’s really no best way to do things. What’s most important is really seeing the human being in front of me rather than getting caught up in the “shoulds” of parenting.

Case in point the latest “problem” I’ve been pondering. In the past month or so Emily has gotten into the habit of falling asleep while drinking her last bottle of the evening. For a few days I found myself in a dark cloud of worry while I gave her that last bottle. I would tell myself, this is a very bad habit. I would tell myself, this needs to stop ASAP. I would run the phrase, “You should always put your baby down awake” over and over in my mind and convince myself I was somehow failing. I would feel shame.

Then tonight as I held Emily in my arms while she drank her bottle, she played with my hair and her eyes began to close. I looked down at her sweet serene face and I thought- SEE WHAT’S IN FRONT OF YOU. Right there in my arms was my sweet baby girl playing with my hair and falling asleep in my arms. I mean, she still fits in my arms. How amazing is that?

I reminded myself that the beauty of that moment was fleeting. Emily won’t always fall asleep in her mama’s arms and want to play with her mama’s hair. This was a moment for me to cherish NOT a moment for me to run away with fear, worry and shame.

If I push aside all of the “shoulds.” If I stop comparing myself and my child to other moms and children. If I really sit down and feel what my instinct is telling me, I know we are okay. I know when the time is right we will take the bottle away. I also know Emily is a capable human being who can fall asleep on her own just fine when we decide to make that change. She’s okay. She’s more than okay.

Moms and dads out there- please hear me when I say this. SEE WHAT’S IN FRONT OF YOU. See what’s there today and try not to get carried away with the tomorrows. I know how easy it is to fear that you’re somehow failing or doing things wrong. But if you can pause, breathe and see the human being in front of you, you’ll remember that nothing else really matters except that deep love you feel inside. Enjoy the little moments of today because they pass by and become the big moments of tomorrow.

You’re doing great. Just keep on seeing what’s in front of you.

 

 

 

Drive By Meanness

Today I was pushing Emily in her stroller while she ate a snack. We were on our way to music class. I scrolled through my phone as we walked and checked my Facebook feed.

Out of nowhere a woman walked close to me and with an intense anger looked me in the eyes and said, “Don’t text while you’re pushing your baby in a stroller. Your baby can’t tell you that you’re a NEGLECTFUL mother.”

Yes. A stranger- a woman I have never seen before (and hope to never see again) said those exact words.

She did not stop walking as she spewed her venom but just continued on her way. I, on the other hand, stopped and froze in complete shock.

There was a moment while I stood frozen when I could have reacted in anger. I could have said a lot of horrible things to her in return. But I’m a good mom and I would never want Emily to see me act that way.

Once the woman, who I’ve since deemed “angry mean scarecrow lady”, was far away, I looked at Emily in her stroller. She contentedly ate her puff cereal and her eyes struck me as particularly blue and pure in that moment.

I’ve had time now to get my bearings. I’ve talked it through with an empathetic friend and I’ve cried. And here’s what I want to say.

To judge another person so quickly. To just look at someone and decide to inject them anger and hostility. That must feel really, really horrible.

That woman must be miserable. She probably feels pain inside all the time, and she tried to spread to me.

Instead of internalize her absurd statement, I’ve decided to do what the wise Daniel Tiger says. “When something’s seems bad, turn it around. Find something good.”

So, if what that stranger did today was drive by meanness, I would like to start up some drive by kindness. Starting tomorrow when I notice something nice about stranger I’ll tell them. Whether it’s saying, “I know how hard it is and you’re doing great”to a hardworking mom or nanny or simply telling someone “that’s a beautiful hat!” I’m going to spread me some genuine kindness.

So, I’m sorry angry mean scarecrow lady, but your attack was not successful. I am going to continue to be the dedicated mom I am and I’m not going to let some hatred get in my way.

PS- This is a picture I drew of her when we got home. Something about drawing this was very therapeutic!

squshing-scarecrow-lady
Emily squishing scarecrow lady’s face 🙂

A Call To Action

I was nicknamed “Firecracker” in film school. It wasn’t a compliment.

I earned this name one day when I loudly voiced my opinion. “Easy there firecracker” a male student said.

Funny how I was a firecracker when all the men who loudly voiced their opinions were just “opinionated” or “strong personalities”.  I was a firecracker, and once even called a bitch, but those men because well, “that’s just the way they are” people would say.

Something about this election chaos and all the dirt it’s bringing to the surface made me think of this experience. It’s making me think of how silenced each of us can feel at times.

It seems to me that what feels like a giant shit storm of hate and misunderstanding and blame right now is actually a call to action for us all.

I’m not sure what this call to action means for me, and I think it means something different to each of us. It feels like something is stirring inside, and it’s something that’s always been there. It’s a fire that I’ve been pushing down again and again and again. I kept extinguishing because it’s not sweet and positive and calm. It’s loud and strong and intense.

It’s like a firecracker.

In the words of the wise Katy Perry, “you’re gonna hear me roar.”

Not sure how yet, but this feels like a start.