Rox Does Yoga

Yoga, Wellness, and Life

It all comes back around April 23, 2013

Filed under: reflections,yoga lifestyle — R. H. Ward @ 1:45 pm
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On Sunday morning, I got a massage. It had been a Christmas gift from my husband F. My massage therapist Sarah lives only a few blocks from my house, so I could walk over. Sarah has such a sense of calm about her that a massage pretty much includes an hourlong guided meditation too, and afterwards, I felt so rested it was like I’d had a full night’s sleep. Walking home, I remember thinking that yes, I’m YB’s mom now, but I’m still myself. Sunday evening, F and I had a great time with YB, dancing to Mountain Stage on the radio and playing the exciting new game Laundry Basket Head. We laughed and laughed. At bedtime, YB went down to sleep sweetly without any fighting. It was the kind of evening I always imagined when I was younger and thought about having kids someday.

Then YB woke up hungry at midnight, and again at 4 AM. We seem to be going through a growth spurt/ravenous beast phase. At the 4 AM waking, it took me 45 minutes to get her down again. I didn’t fall back to sleep myself until after 5:00;  YB woke up crying at 5:40, then the alarm went off at 5:55. Meanwhile, I’m dealing with YB’s latest gift from daycare – a cold this time – and my nose is running off my face. By the time I made it down to breakfast, I was grumpy as anything. No more massages for me, I thought. I’m not still myself, there’s no use pretending. All I am now is the thing that takes care of YB. I knew what I was getting into when we decided to have a baby; I knew that people with kids are perpetually exhausted and snot-covered. This is what I chose, so I’d better just give in and accept it. And then I remembered that I had to teach yoga that night and I wanted to cry.

Some mornings are bad exhausting mornings; some evenings are full of giggles and dancing. What I need to remember is that I signed up for both, and as hard as the exhausting times may feel, the wonderful times do balance it out: they’re the reason I wanted a child, the thing that I dreamed of. Even when I feel most worn out and used up, I’m still myself deep down, and that will always be there. I felt grumpy and frustrated and tired and sick all day Monday, but Monday night’s yoga class made me feel like myself again. It all comes back around.

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Books: Caretaking a New Soul, edited by Anne Carson March 28, 2013

Filed under: books,yoga lifestyle — R. H. Ward @ 8:24 am
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Caretaking a New SoulCaretaking a New Soul, edited by Anne Carson, is an anthology of short essays about spirituality, education, and young children, aimed at families who don’t follow a traditional Christian path. Most people in the US are Christian; of adults who no longer practice, or practice a different faith, many were raised in a Christian household, chose a different path later, and are now searching for meaningful rituals and traditions to share with their children. Caretaking a New Soul fills that need, exploring a variety of faith perspectives, from Buddhist to pagan to the “buffet style” spiritual practitioner who likes a little bit of everything.

My favorite pieces in the collection are those from the Buddhist perspective, as that’s the faith closes to my own ideals.Raised Catholic myself, I appreciated the advice on how to teach meditation to a child in two essays: “The Education of the Buddhist Child,” by Rev. Jiyu Kennett, and “Call It Something Else,” by Karey Solomon. In “The Education of the Buddhist Child,” I really appreciated the perspective shift in discussing the differences in raising a Buddhist versus a Christian child. In “Call It Something Else,” Solomon talks about one specific method for teaching meditation to preschoolers. I’m looking forward to helping YB learn how to “make her star shine bright.” I’ve made copies of both articles for future reference.

The book was first published in 1989, with only a new preface added for the second edition in 1999, and this shows a bit in the content. I didn’t see any essays from a Hindu perspective, which would have been a welcome addition to me, or a Muslim perspective, which would have been great to include, but the second edition was published before Muslim spirituality came onto the scene in such a negative way with 9/11. Understandably, the need to demystify Muslim spiritual practice and childrearing wasn’t yet a major issue. There’s also very little discussion of alternative families. This issue doesn’t necessarily affect spiritual practice, but there are a lot of mentions of mothers and fathers that just wouldn’t be applicable for many modern families. And there are many “new age” sorts of references, and the pagan perspectives felt a bit dated to me. Overall the book still has a lot of excellent content for parents as spiritual seekers and teachers, but the reader has to be aware of the time lapse.

Interestingly for me, the pagan pieces made me think about my own bias: even in essays where I agreed with every substantive thing the author had to say, I still rolled my eyes at terms like “Goddess” and “Magick”. Why? As my husband F pointed out, a child is more likely to comprehend the idea of saying a magic spell over terminology like “the power of positive thinking” and “self-actualization”. Who cares what you call it, if it works? And reverence for the earth and the environment is important to my own spirituality, even if I don’t talk about the Earth Mother, and it’s definitely something I want to share with my daughter. Regardless of the words used, respecting the spiritual practices of others is important to me, and I will always want YB to be respectful, so I definitely have to examine my attitudes before I pass negative perspectives down to her.

In one section, Carson talks about how parents want more for their children. For many of us, our parents wanted us to have more than they did, largely in the sense of material goods and status: a good education, college, and fancy house and car. Carson, writing in the 1980s, notes that she wants her daughter to have more in the emotional and spiritual sense: more freedom from violence and prejudice, more self-confidence, more strength. That statement struck me hard, because those are the exact things that I want my daughter to have that I didn’t (and doing the math and realizing the Carson’s daughter is probably just a few years younger than I am makes me a bit sad, but also glad for the steps forward that have been made just in my lifetime). Thinking critically about spiritual issues and education is one of the main ways we can begin to build that future for our children.

 

Beginning Again… Again March 19, 2013

Filed under: yoga,yoga lifestyle — R. H. Ward @ 1:15 pm
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Recently I wrote about how I was starting to get my yoga practice back by carving out some practice time early in the mornings. Well, soon after that post, the entire family – F, YogaBaby, and I – all came down with a stomach bug. It took us days to recover. Then a family member visited from out of town, the entire family caught a low-level cold, and finally the disaster that is daylight saving time hit us hard. Any parent can tell you that “springing ahead” wreaks havoc on a small child, and it wasn’t too kind to F and me either. And so my yoga got off track again. I know that life is what’s happening when your plans get derailed, and maybe someday I’ll look back fondly on the vomit, screaming, snot, and exhaustion of the past month, but let me tell you it was not exactly fun to live through.

One of the worst things about a month like this, to me, is that I always seem to lose my yoga time right when I need it the most. Last week, for example, when YB was still adjusting to the time change and refused to go to bed for the fourth night in a row, I set her thrashing, howling little body in the crib, went to another room, and yelled and punched the floor. (Yes, the floor.) I felt frustrated, angry, and helpless, and knowing that none of it was YB’s fault just made me angry at myself for not having more patience. These are the feelings I count on my yoga practice to help me control; having that quiet time to check in with my body and spirit and to center myself helps me so much to be a calmer person.

My challenge at times like this is to find that calm center on my own, without the framework of an asana practice. That night I couldn’t find it. But YB cried for less than ten minutes before rolling over and falling asleep on her own – I was upset for a lot longer than she was. No amount of singing and cuddling from me could help her to do that, that night: she had to find it herself. The bedtime routine has improved steadily since then, and last night I had my sweet snuggly baby bedtime back. I appreciated it even more after the rough nights.

After a relaxing weekend and the chance to catch up on some of our lost sleep, F and I have started setting the alarm clock early again. We’ll gradually work backwards until we’re getting up at 5:30 again, but we started with getting up just ten minutes early yesterday. I did five half sun salutes in my bathrobe, then sat quietly on my meditation cushion for a few minutes. It’s a start. What’s important isn’t how many times you fall out of the routine – it’s being able to start fresh and begin again, and again, and again.

 

How to be a calm parent March 14, 2013

Filed under: yoga lifestyle — R. H. Ward @ 1:10 pm
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A friend sent me this great article: How to be a calm parent. I love this long list of ways to keep yourself calm when your children are inspiring not-calm. I’m going to file this away for future reference when YogaBaby becomes YogaKid. What things do you to keep calm in tough parenting situations? (Or any situations!)

 

Joyful Things March 7, 2013

I’ve been writing a lot lately about making resolutions and overcoming bad feelings like guilt, shame, and fear. I even have another post or two in the queue along these lines. When you think about it one way, you might see these as positive posts, reaffirming our ability to take action and make change – but looked at another way, I’ve been kind of a downer lately. So, in honor of the impending springtime, here are some wonderful things, things to rejoice about and be grateful for.

  • I have a poem published in the current issue of UU World magazine. This is exciting for several reasons: it’s the first time I was solicited for poems. As a Unitarian Universalist, it made me happy to see my work in a magazine that so closely aligns with my values, and which reaches such a wide audience of readers who share those values. And it’s the first time I got fan mail from a reader who liked the poem!
  • I work in a job where my group’s VP and product director care about meeting new hires and getting to know their people. I had lunch with our VP a few weeks ago, and our product director scheduled a group lunch for next month. Overall I feel listened to and supported at my job. And I have the ability to work from home when I need to.
  • I just realized that this January marked ten years since I started practicing yoga. Ten years! I took my first yoga class during my last semester at UNC Greensboro. It was an ashtanga-based power yoga class at lunchtime, Tuesdays and Thursdays, and I was really confused at first, but I loved it. I still love it ten years later. How cool that it’s become such a part of my life!
  • F and I celebrated a special anniversary last week: six years since our first kiss. It amazes me to think about how my life has changed as a result of that moment and all the wonderful things that came from it.
  • Speaking of wonderful things that come from kissing, YogaBaby is clapping her hands, waving, and trying to stand up at every opportunity. She’ll hold onto our hands and walk across the room now. When handed a photo and asked “Who’s that?”, she answered “Dada.” (And we were able to repeat this event three times.) She also says “mamamamama” now, but only under duress when she’s upset. Predictably, I come running when I hear it. Overall she’s pretty much a joy to be around.
  • F’s sister came to visit last week. It was wonderful to see her, and she stayed in with the baby one night so F and I could go out for a nice dinner.
  • When our entire family unit was down with a stomach bug a few weeks back, I had reason to be grateful (1) that I did not in fact die lying on the bathroom floor like I thought I would; (2) that F and YB didn’t get it as bad as I did and in fact YB had the mildest case; (3) that YB still felt sick enough that all she wanted to do was nap and cuddle, which was about all we could keep up with; (4) that I have the kind of husband who will go to the store for medicine at 1 am (with a bowl on the seat next to him just in case) and then will change the baby’s jammies and sheets when she throws up at 3 am and I literally cannot move; and (5) that my parents were willing to come over with ginger ale and jello the next morning to take care of us.
  • I’ll be covering the prenatal yoga class at East Eagle Yoga starting next month when Sarah, the current instructor, has her baby. I’m excited for an opportunity to teach again, and I love prenatal. More on this in April!
 

One or Two? February 28, 2013

Filed under: reflections,yoga lifestyle — R. H. Ward @ 1:07 pm
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Pretty much as soon as I brought YogaBaby home from the Birth Center, I’ve been worrying over whether we’ll have a second child. At first my worries were entirely childbirth-related: feeling kind of traumatized by the whole thing, I never wanted to think about doing it again. Then my midwife brought up birth control at my six-week postpartum check-up, and I started worrying in earnest. Did I want another child? Well, my heart sure seems to want one. But could we afford daycare for two children? And we’ve been getting by with just one car: my trusty two-door VW Rabbit. A second child would necessitate trading up for a larger car at the very least, possibly getting a second car. My VW, though tiny, is at least paid off, and so new cars would lead to car payments and more costs for insurance, gas, and maintenance. We’re comfortable now, but finances would be a lot tighter with a second baby. And what about things like yoga time, writing time, and just plain grownup time? We’re starting to get these things back now, but having two kids would probably mean giving them up again long-term. And would I really want to be pregnant again? I loved being pregnant, but from my vantage point here it seems like an awful lot of work. In many ways I think it would be good for YB to have a sibling, and I think having two kids would be a lot of fun, especially when they’re older, but the stress and exhaustion of having two young children that worries me. Do we want to go through that, even for the payoff of having two great kids down the line?

You may tell me that I have plenty of time to decide, and while it’s true that I don’t have to decide right this minute, I’ll be 34 this year, and F will be 36. Besides just the biology of my aging body, F points out that he’d like to be done with diapers by the time he’s 40, and that seems pretty fair. I’d like that too. A few months back I told myself that because I wanted to breastfeed YB for the first full year, we didn’t have to decide about another baby until her first birthday, and that helped for a while. Now, though, she’s getting older and leaving many baby things behind already. In many ways, that’s awesome – we get so much more sleep now! – but somehow holding a newborn is very different from holding a seven-month-old. I appreciated the hell out of my time with her when she was tiny, and every day I appreciate all her wiggling, hand-clapping, trying-to-be-standing action, but it still aches a little to think that that particular sweet time is over.

Clearly this is a huge issue that requires a lot of thought and discussion. This post is really just a quick synopsis of what F and I have been talking about. But I bring it up because I realized something. I noticed that I tend to think about (and obsess over) the possibility of Baby 2 when I feel the most overwhelmed, the most tired, the most insecure in myself. There’s a part of me worrying that F wouldn’t want to have another baby with me when I’ve shown myself to be such an unsupportive train wreck of a partner when there’s only one child to worry about; there’s a part of me worrying that I might want to have a second baby and won’t because I’m such a crap mom to the one I have now.

And I have to say, to hell with this nonsense. When I’m happy and engaged in the present moment, you know what? I don’t think about having a second baby, because I’m too busy enjoying the one I have. It’s my anxieties and fears and shames that are driving this constant worrying. Another baby will happen or not, depending on what F and I choose (and on, you know, fate and stuff), but my personal failings aren’t really a part of that decision, because I’m only human and so is F. The next time this issue comes up for me, I need to close my eyes and take some deep breaths. I need to remind myself that it’s just anxiety talking. And then let it go.

 

2012: Year in Review / 2013: Year in Preview January 15, 2013

Filed under: checking in,reflections,yoga lifestyle — R. H. Ward @ 1:25 pm
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Last January, I set out a long and detailed list of goals. Looking back on that list, I kind of can’t believe that I even remotely considered all of those things to be possible when I started out 2012 four months pregnant. I wanted to keep up with all my interests and passions, keep moving my yoga career forward. I was so determined not to lose “myself” in having a baby. I had no idea, about so many things. I had no idea how much I would love being pregnant, or how active a state it is: that I could just sit there and be pregnant and I’d be totally busy. I had no idea how much rest I would need while I was pregnant, or how much energy and mobility I would lose. And I had no idea how drastically and irrevocably my life would change on July 8 when YogaBaby entered the world, how my priorities would instantly rearrange themselves around her. I realized last summer than I wasn’t in danger of losing “myself” in motherhood. Losing my free time and the ability to go out at night, sure. But “myself” is deeper and more confident and just MORE because of my love for her.

So, yeah, 2012 was a heck of a year. I gave birth. My child is still breathing, and despite all my fears and worries, I haven’t done anything to drastically harm her yet. In fact, she’s thriving, and smiling, and generally being awesome. And I learn new things about her, and about myself, every day.

But 2012 wasn’t just the year I became a parent. I published my first poetry chapbook! Which is a pretty big milestone – it just didn’t feel like it at the time, since my copies of the book arrived about a week after YB did. I also published three book reviews at good publications and had favorable responses to reviewing queries at others. I got solicited for poems for really the first time; the editor loved the work and one of the poems will be printed this year in a magazine that has probably a lot more readers than anywhere else I’ve ever published. And I managed to make some forward progress on the new poems – not as much as I would have liked, but under the circumstances I’ll take any forward progress as a success.

And 2012 was a good year for yoga. I taught prenatal yoga, which was unexpected and fantastic, and I taught at Awaken, which was a great opportunity at a great studio. I registered with Yoga Alliance, got my yoga Facebook page up and running, and kept this blog going, albeit at a much reduced pace. I didn’t meet my goal of reading one yoga-related book per month, or of following up on yoga book reviewing, but I did still read four books that related to my yoga goals, which isn’t too bad. My personal yoga practice disappeared for a while, which was sad but necessary, and I worked hard to find my yoga in other places and give myself the space to be imperfect.

So now it’s 2013. I’m at risk of setting another bunch of impossible goals for myself, but I do want to make a few resolutions. I want to get back some sort of a physical hatha yoga practice, and I’ve started steps to make that happen (they involve the alarm clock and YB sleeping well, so it’s kind of a shaky plan at best, but initial experiments are promising). I want to keep educating myself about yoga and spirituality, and I want to take some steps towards reestablishing myself as a yoga teacher, even just in my own mind. I want to keep recording my journey here and maybe try to be a bit more regular about it. Most important of all is that I want to be a good mother to YB. And taking care of myself, regaining some of my yoga and meditation practice -and continuing to give myself the space to be imperfect – is a crucial part of doing that.