Mothering, Music and yoga

The “Share” Game, connecting with your tweens and teens via playlists

Is music a part of your life? Was it when you were a teenager? Do you stream music any way… Pandora, Spotify, Apple, Amazon, Napster, Linewire? Wait… that might reveal my age. Let’s jump back to the 21st century.

Got music? Great! You have the best possible tool to connect with the tween(s) and/or teen(s) in your life. And here’s how.

I like to play a little game with my tween called “share.” Here’s how “Share” works. You get to play any song you want, from any place in time. Then, they get to play any song they want, from any place in time. Essentially we take turns sharing music with each other. I have found this is most effective when they’re trapped in the car. “Sure, you can listen to Khalid, but we’re going to play ‘Share’ first.” Usually this is met by a groan. And I have to admit it can sting when your idols are poo-poo’d. I mean, who doesn’t love Bowie’s “Moonage Daydream?” My kid apparently.

(IMPORTANT / COMMON SENSE: the person that is NOT driving manages the playlist. In no way should the driver be fiddling around with their phone while driving!)

This is such a great way to connect with your kid. To get a feel for where they’re at. they get a chance to be in charge. You get a chance to talk about language, or relationships, or why this sort of attitude degrades women, or how that beat can make you feel stressed when you actually aren’t. The door is wide open in terms of content to connect on. What used to be addressed via jokey euphemisms (think “Funky Cold Medina”) are now all but marketed by artists… have you heard “Highest in the Room,” by Travis Scott? Your tween/teen has. Google it. Listen. Read the lyrics.

In all honesty, “Share” doesn’t last that long. After 4 or 5 of “my” songs, we generally end up listening to Chainsmokers or Khalid. Kiddo gets sick of looking music up and my misremembering of titles, and I usually concede to my tween’s choice to keep the communication flowing. Plus, I really like Khalid! We both like to sing. It’s fun visiting their world.

Maybe you’re reading this and thinking this would never work for your crew. And maybe it wouldn’t. You’ll never know until you try. And who knows. You might see Gorillaz or The Beatles show up on your kid’s playlist. The only downside I have experienced? Some of those old favorites might not hold up in the current era. Given the choice, go for remastered classics.

Rock on, jam out, and enjoy!

Pondering

The problem with "Yoga Docs," or, why Grandma might think "Yoga is a cult," aka, "The Guru Problem."

I’ve been sitting on some thoughts regarding some of the media’s portrayal of yoga in Western society. Most recently, I watched the documentary about Bikram Choudhury and his horrifying yoga lens and oppressive teaching. As alarming as Bikram’s methods were / are, I was equally disappointed in the film’s inability to clarify what yoga truly is. Maybe this is because the definition of yoga is so broad an all-encompassing? Maybe it is because the truth isn’t as sensational as the instances where megalomaniac men use yoga as bait to lure in people to abuse and manipulate. The one glaring omission from all of these? Nobody stood up to say, “all of this happened, and this is not yoga. Yoga is…”

Let’s take a look at some of the offerings we can all sit and consume from home that could make anyone’s grandma think “all yoga is a cult.” This isn’t a complete list, just a list of things I happened to see or hear this past year.

Wild Wild Country (2018): I remember seeing Osho books next to the Rumi anthologies in college bookstores back in the 90’s. A guy I dated quipped about “free love.” I’d kind of forgotten about Osho until my brother suggested I watch Wild Wild Country. This Netflix doc series covers the rise and fall of the Rajneeshpuram cult. Rajneesh/Osho and his minions used some aspects of yoga, hypnotism, psychological abuse, sex, violence, and power to manipulate and abuse as many as 2,000 people who lived on it’s commune in Oregon. As horrifying as this doc-series is, apparently it doesn’t even include some of the worst happenings on the commune, like sexual abuse of children, and an alleged plot to purposely cause an AIDS epidemic. Unreal. I’ve added Jane Stork’s book, “Breaking the Spell: My Life as a Rajneeshee and the Long Journey Back to Freedom (2009),” to my reading list. In case it isn’t obvious, this is not yoga. But there are still people buying Osho’s books and paying to go to resorts and meditation trainings in his name!

Holy Hell (2016): CNN films documentary about the Buddhafield cult. This autobiographical film by artist Will Allen introduces viewers to Michel, aka Jaime Gomez, aka many other names… an actor turned hypnotist/guru who uses yoga as a tool to manipulate followers into submission. We come to see the obsessive vanity of Michel, as well as his requirement that followers be fit, young, and beautiful. What blew my mind about this film was the perspective shift… Allen made this film over the course of 22 years! He began filming in an obviously loving, admiring way when he was young and we can see the shift in his lens as he begins to see the truth about Michel. Viewers will see a lot of mind-bending hypnotism, ego, sexual abuse, idolization, manipulation… this is not yoga. Yet there are still Buddhafield events and followers, and Michel is still a guru leader!

Bikram: Yogi, Guru, Predator (2019): Another Netflix documentary. This one was a little different, because in the yoga world even today, Bikram is a household name. It is a brand. Bikram Yoga. It is a noun! “My sister does Bikram.” I recall seeing Bikram Choudhury on late night TV, in People Magazine… there are studios in nearly every city branded Bikram. I have also been cautioned by many teachers over the years, “Bikram yoga is not real yoga. People love it but it isn’t for everyone.” And now I know why. Again, this man used yoga to coerce, manipulate, emotionally and sexually abuse, and most of all, PROFIT (cha-ching!) thousands upon thousands of people. Again… this is not yoga. Hot yoga? Ok. Maybe. Bikram is alive and well. But let’s not give the Bikram brand any more money!

Uncover, Season 1, Escaping NXIVM (2018): This is a Canadian (CBC) Podcast, and this season is not about yoga per se, rather, about yet ANOTHER cult known as NXIVM (pronounced Nexium). NXIVM is so many things, but I think this organization would say it is an “executive training” business, very guru-style self-help if you ask me, with a guru leader named Keith Raniere who claims to be not only the smartest man in the world, but in many senses a Messiah. Why is this on my list? Because threaded throughout the season, we hear how members targeted yoga studios and yoga practitioners, the yoga community is tangentially linked here, and it bugs me! Not once does anyone say, “this has nothing to yoga,” rather, it makes it seem like taking a yoga class makes you susceptible to being recruited into a cult. Maybe yoga students are seekers, more open-minded. But yoga itself is not a cult. And of course, there are still people who follow Keith Raniere, who consider him a guru.

The common theme here, in my humble opinion? Megalomaniac men using yoga as a tool to elevate themselves to guru status, and then using that power to manipulate, control, and abuse. THIS IS NOT YOGA. Sadly, the truth is, there is a problem with gurus. A google search can reveal hundreds of abusive gurus over time. It has gotten to the point where whenever I am curious about a type of yoga practice, or even want to read a new book, I need to do some research to find out whether or not that person has hurt people. Often they have. It is a sad reality. This is not yoga.

So we have a problem. There has been the question, “Can you separate the art from the artist?” Well, I have come to ask, “Can you separate the yoga from the abusive guru?” I cannot. I simply cannot. What can we do to resolve this problem? Would Netflix be interested in making documentaries about the positive, real contributions modern yoga is making in our society, while also honoring tradition and history, and not appropriating? We shall see. Something tells me it won’t be happening anytime soon.

Books about yoga, Living with intention, The Yoga Club, Yoga off the mat

What’s Compassion Got To Do With It?

The Kiss woodcut by Edward Munch

The heart of my yoga practice, and why I came to want to teach, is compassion. The journey I have been on, the obstacles personal and outside of myself, secondary infertility, challenges of modern life, moving from place to place and even abroad, all of these things have led me to grow my understanding and love of all beings and places. It sounds dramatic, but the truth is, it is so, so simple.

In studying yoga I have found compassion to be a philosophical thread woven into all of the lineages. I came to yoga for exercise, and to yoga philosophy and deeper study via Buddhism, and the acceptance of suffering and desire to love and nurture all calls me daily. Judith Hanson Lasater writes, “Plant compassion, get compassion,” in chapter 9 of her book “Living Your Yoga: Finding the Spiritual in Everyday Life,” and this has become a mantra for me when that animal instinct to snap at a seemingly rude cashier, or to honk at a driver speeding and weaving dangerously when I’m attempting to safely deliver my children to school.

I want to start a conversation regarding compassion in my local yoga community and beyond. So I am leading a free community event this Sunday, November 17, at Premier Yoga & Fitness in Mansfield. See The Yoga Club for more info. Register for this event here!

And if the title of this post plants a Tina Turner song in your head, we are of like mind.

– Smile –

Introspection, Living with intention, Pondering, seasons, Yoga off the mat

Introspection, on the second day of fall

I’ve been getting emails reminding me it is time to renew my Yoga Alliance registration and my teacher’s insurance. Have I really been doing this a whole year? What have I done in this year? It’s a question I’ve been asking myself as we roll from summer to fall, as the light changes… it’s still hot as August here in Texas but in my mind the leaves are turning and we enter the darker, sleepier days of the end of the year.

So, what have I done this year? I have taught a lot of yoga classes. I have also kissed boo-boos, celebrated birthdays, tested new recipes, checked out a ton of library books, supported family members through life-threatening health emergencies, waded through muddy parenting waters with friends… the list goes on. What I have NOT done a lot of is writing, and I have not nurtured Slow Lotus as an entity as much as I would like to.

Autumn brings the harvest but is also a time to sow, hunker down, germinate, and ready ourselves for another year of growth and bloom. I’ve been thinking about Slow Lotus and my intentions. I have some nebulous ideas and am starting to write them down, I have been meditating, I have been pulling together some images, and I am starting to gain clarity on what this next year will look like. My first year out of the gate so to speak has been humbling and invigorating. I’ve felt so busy, wonderfully so, but now I’m feeling the pull to focus. I’ll be sharing more yoga here, and in real life. On and off the mat.

Yoga for non-yoga people, Yoga to relieve stress

5 Reasons to not skip yoga this Super Bowl Sunday

Hey, is there something going on this Sunday. JUST KIDDING. I was born and raised in New England so you can imagine my friends and family “back home” are excited to see their team on the green (again) for the big game. I could take it or leave it, although as a family we usually have a fun dinner and watch at least the first half of the game and the halftime show. This year will be a bit different because I’ll be teaching a Hatha class in the afternoon. I’m a little worried attendance will be low, so I decided to put a list of reasons why we all should make time to get to a class this Sunday.

  1. More Nachos. Or pizza. Or wings. Pick your poison. Beer? Wine? Mountain Dew? Chubby Hubby? Generally you can expect to burn 200-500 calories in an hour of yoga, depending on your size, metabolism, and the type of yoga. According to one calorie calculator, I will burn at least 300 calories practicing this Sunday, and since I’m the teacher, I can plan some extra scorching poses (chair, anyone?) to up the burn. Whatever your caloric vice, making it to class will buy you at least a larger serving.
  2. Personal Space. A standard yoga mat is 24 inches wide and 68 inches long. If you own a deluxe mat, chances are, it is even larger than that. Add space to spread your arms wide, and it doesn’t matter how crowded the studio is that day, you will certainly have more space to yourself in class than you will on your couch when Uncle Leo and your husband’s golfing buddy show up for the game.
  3. Blood Pressure Control. Maybe you’re pulling for the Pats. Maybe you’re rooting for the Rams. Maybe you had to Google which teams are playing Super Bowl LIII (like me!). It could be a nail-biter of a game, or you might be stuck referee-ing the kids while everyone else is glued to the game. Whatever your role may be, science tells us you might be able to lower your blood pressure using tools you use in yoga class.
  4. Feel Good, Look Good. Get your sweat on, meditate a bit, and you know you’re going to feel amazing. Yoga days are good days. Whether you have a date to watch the game, or just imagine Todd Gurley or Tom Brady can see you through the TV, you probably want to feel and look good. Rock those yoga pants!
  5. It’s NOT The Game. Yoga is a reprieve from all the things. From groceries, from laundry, from the subway, from the internet… and from The Game. Football isn’t everyone’s thing. I have to admit I have only ever watched it tongue-in-cheek, though I have family, friends, and a spouse who really dig it. It’s OK to ignore or protest the sport. We all have our reasons, and they are all valid. Come to yoga. Hope to see you there!

Note: not my photo! Found it on Instagram and haven’t located original source.

Yoga off the mat

You don’t want to do anything today that would prevent you from practicing tomorrow

I’ve been practicing with online yoga videos and tutorials recently, with teachers from all schools of yoga. Some are amazing, offering creative ways to float up to Ardha Chandrasana, or Half Moon, or unexpected flows to heat up for back bends. As with most things, not all of them are a good fit. One Yin teacher talked through entire Yin practice. Another suggested a jump-back that, in my opinion, could put a lot of YouTube Yogis in traction. (Is YouTube Yogis a known term? If not I’m coining it now).

You choose what serves you and you let go of the rest.

But tonight, I had an aha moment, where an online instructor said, “One truism I love is when they say, “You don’t want to do anything in your practice today that prevents you from practicing tomorrow.” EXACTLY.

A lot of potential students want to know what my “style” is. How do I teach. How fast. “Will I be able to take your class if I can’t do a headstand?”

Absolutely! Because my guiding principle is be safe, stay in alignment, modify, and prevent injury. I would never lead a large public class with newbies or students I don’t know through a headstand. The risks are too great. If it was a workshop with a small group, sure. A class full of experienced practitioners whom I know are up for it, AND, who know their limits and won’t push beyond their edge? Sure. Do I practice headstands regularly in my personal practice? No. Some. But I don’t want to do anything injuring, I want to practice every day until I’m 99 and older.

You do you. If you’re all about inversions and wheel, great. Who knows, maybe I’ll be doing them a lot in my personal practice somewhere down the line.

At the fitness center my daughter swims at, there was a poster outside the spin studio that read, “Ignore your limits.” There was a monochromatic of an extremely fit, muscle-bound cyclist wincing, beads of gray scale sweat clustered on his brow, dripping into his eyes. Each time I walked by that image I’d point it out to Dove and remind her that it’s good to push yourself, but one should never ignore their body’s limits or warnings. We know better than that.