Latest Posts

The Power of Touch

 

 

I remember years ago during my last semester of college, I attended a Restorative Yoga class with one of my all-time most favorite yoga teachers, Billie Jo Joy from Art & Soul Yoga in Cambridge, MA. My college boyfriend and I had broken up after dating for 3.5 years, and I had been really busy finishing up school. During this yoga class, the teacher came over and gently put a blanket over my body to stay warm. Suddenly I was overcome with such a powerful emotion. I remember tearing up, thinking to myself about how human closeness is so important for health and happiness.

So… fast forward through time to when my son was born. He was born prematurely at 32 weeks because I had preeclampsia. He was in good health, but needed to be delivered early because my blood pressure was so high. Throughout the entire time he was in the hospital, I began to learn about the importance of Kangaroo Care or “skin to skin”. The health benefits from Kangaroo Care are EXTAORDINARY for improving an infant’s health, and often skin to skin reduces the amount of time they are in the hospital. (You can read more about the benefits of skin to skin AKA Kangaroo care here).

After my son came home from the hospital, I found a Mama & Me Yoga class that we could go to while still living in Portland, ME. The class was held at Lila East End Yoga Studio and was called Itsy Bitsy Yoga… it was oh-so-amazing. Parents learned massage techniques for their babies, as well as simple yoga postures for newborns, pre-crawlers, crawlers, walkers, etc. We also learned about the importance of crossing the midline. Parents were able to socialize, and there was even reflection time in the classes. I loved everything about this. And I loved learning about infant massage. Every night, I would massage my son, and it soon became our routine. As difficult as it may be for me to stick to “daily routines”… massage has never been a problem. Still to this day, 3 years later, he asks every night for me to rub or scratch his back.

touch

So… a few years ago I attended a workshop through ChildLight Yoga called Children’s Yoga Primer for Preschool Educators. In this 2.5 hour workshop, there was one MAJOR piece that stuck out the most for me- something called Rest and Press. The instructor was explaining to us how this can be useful for children with sensory challenges, and to also help calm the energy of a classroom of energetic preschoolers. We took turns practicing this during the workshop… and not only does it feel amazing, but it only takes a minute or two to do. I also witnessed firsthand how much my nephew responded to Rest and Press after he was feeling upset while visiting us about a year ago. I told my sister about the workshop, and how to do Rest and Press and she told me how whenever she would do this with him at home, he calmed down almost immediately.

Fast forward through time again, to this past week… at the preschool where I work, the children have a 30 minute rest time after lunch. They get to look at books, and listen to soft, soothing music while they take some time to rest. One day, I thought I’d try going around to each child and ask if they wanted me to rub their back.  Every single one said yes. And do you know what happened? Two of the children asked me to come rub their backs again… and rest time was very restful. Usually, a few children will get up and ask when rest time will be over, but not one child did that day. I’d like to continue doing this at rest time (as long as the children are okay with it)to see how the children respond, and if they continue to rest more successfully. I mean, if you had a scheduled rest time each day where someone would rub your back, how nice would that be!?

This brings me back to the benefits of touch and massage. In a very generalized way, I’d like to say that human beings thrive with contact from other humans… feeling loved, appreciated, cared for, etc… all of these feelings help with improving both mental and physical health. Here is an article about the benefits of touch.

Have you used massage with your babies or children? How does touch affect you? I’d love to learn about books, techniques, or any other resources you have to share!

Now go hug someone!

 

Yoga Makes Me Laugh!

I realize it’s been a while since I’ve written. Sickness has invaded our house over the past few weeks, and I’ve honestly enjoyed lying low with my son. However, it’s time to get back on track… and I would like to take just a minute to share with you the reasons I love doing Yoga with my son:

SpringSummerFall 2014 463

-Whenever we do “partner yoga” (basically that means him climbing all over me) we LAUGH… a lot!

-We are active together.

-We are taking a break from our day, schedules, and screens…. and making time to just play and be silly.

-We practice taking deep breaths together. This is helpful for us to do when we are feeling relatively happy, so that when the BIG emotions hit, we have something to fall back on as a way to deal with those emotions. (Notice I am saying “we” … parents need help with this, too!)

-No matter what type of mood I may be in (tired, stressed, hungry)… doing yoga, even for 5 minutes, is like hitting the “refresh” button. My mind is calmer and I feel ready to tackle making dinner, etc.

-Seeing my son’s face light up with joy fills my heart… so taking just a few minutes for his well-being is worth it.

I have been practicing yoga since 2007, and when I became pregnant with my son in 2010, I enjoyed going to pre-natal yoga classes very much. I met one of my closest friends while attending that class, and even though we live a few hours apart now, our boys are still able to share a close friendship whenever they get the chance to play. We lived in Portland, Maine during the time when I was pregnant, and I was able to take classes at Portland Yoga Studio (an Iyengar Yoga studio). My son has been doing yoga with me since in-utero! What makes me smile is hearing him tell me that he needs to do some stretching before bed, or when he shows me his own “yoga pose”…

What are some ways you enjoy connecting with your children, friends, or loved ones? I’d love to hear!

Envisioning the Future…

dreamToday I had the opportunity (and time) to visit with a good friend, who also lives down the road from me. Can I just say how incredibly lucky I feel to have such a rad friend (who is also a great Mama to her little ones) live so close by… especially considering that we live in a rural area! Whenever the two of us get together there are definitely some funny conversations (usually about what one of our children has said or done) …but we also, almost always, talk about our goals & dreams in life.  I love having a friend who shares in the delight of dreaming big and putting things into action. So, after going for a walk and hanging out together (child-free), I felt inspired to write and share some thoughts…

As the New Year draws closer, and the craze of the holidays has calmed down, I’ve been putting more thought into what the future holds.  I  love to create vision boards (a type of goal setting artistic map) whenever I am setting goals in life… and getting to see what evolves in pretty cool! My mother used to talk about creating vision boards to help focus on a particular thing coming to fruition in life, or to help set goals when I was younger. It wasn’t until I was in college when I tried this for the first time with a friend of mine. I loved it! Check out this brief explanation of what a vision board is here.

Anyway… back to what I was saying about dreams and the New Year. I have had a surplus of ideas flooding my mind over the past 3 months… my family and friends laugh now when I say “I have another idea”. With bucket loads of money, these ideas could all probably happen, however, that’s not the reality… and that is OKAY. Being on a budget forces me to focus on one idea at a time. The other dreams don’t have to vanish… they are still burning embers, ready to catch fire when the time is right. So, since the New Year is around the corner, I wanted to share ONE of my dreams with you as a way to put it out to the Universe and spark some momentum. I’d also love to hear your comments, and your own goals as well!

As you may or may not know, I started my own Yoga Company in 2011, named Growing With Yoga. I had completed my training with  ChildLight Yoga in early January of 2011 in Boston, MA, and was eager to teach children’s yoga on my own. I taught in preschools, yoga studios and in one high school from February-September 2011. Then I found out I was pregnant with my son, and his father and I decided to move to a different state, which meant that my teaching was put on hold during that transition. Fast forward some time … and I’ve now been a single mom for 3 years. My son is 3.5 years old, we have moved back to where my family lives, and I have had the awesome opportunity to work as an Assistant Teacher in a local Montessori preschool, as well as kick off teaching yoga again. Becoming a mother has shown me a lot about the way I want to live my life and what experiences I find valuable for my son. Working as a teacher at the Montessori preschool has also taught me a lot about children, and has opened my eyes to learning about different teaching and learning modalities.

art

So… here’s my dream/goal for 2015: TO ESTABLISH MY OWN YOGA & ART STUDIO SPACE! I hope to further my studies with Art Therapy and dive deeper into working with children and families. I feel there is such a need for children to learn through experiences- to touch, hold, create, and manipulate objects, and for the child to learn about their emotions through those experiences. There is also a need for creating a healthy relationship with our bodies, starting at a young age- learning how to move safely, freely, and openly… where no one will laugh at or judge you. It is my dream to create a space where children can create ART, and become artists in the process… and where they can dance and move to music, and learn to trust their bodies is a SUPER fun way!

Of course, there are logistics to figure out: location of this space, funding for rent/supplies, and some workshops to take to better my knowledge in Art, Art Therapy, and Yoga. There will always be steps to take… but those are achievable. What’s funny is that I was not a very artistic child- I liked craft projects, but my artwork at school was never displayed as “the best artwork”. What had led me to love art is the freedom of expression. I see so much value and richness in art with children. There’s a huge sense of pride when a child creates something, whether it’s a drawing done with crayons, or shaping something out of clay… a part of who they are went into making that. Art also allows for a story to be told… and combining that experience with yoga (another passion of mine) is something I hope the community I live in will appreciate and support!

Check out this amazing link all about Art Therapy…

Please comment and share some of your dreams & goals for 2015… or ideas about how to put your dreams into reality! Happy New Year!

~May you close 2014 with love and gratitude, and welcome 2015 with an open mind, positive outlook & passion in your heart.~

 

1st Published Article…

henryI recently had an article that I wrote published in Mandala Magazine’s online edition. Mandala Publications is the official publication of the Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition (FPMT), an international charitable organization founded by two Tibetan Buddhist masters, Lama Thubten Yeshe (1935-1984) and Lama Thubten Zopa Rinpoche. FPMT is a vibrant international community, with a network of 160 affiliate centers, projects and services, and members in more than 30 countries.

The name of the article I wrote is called Parenting Unplugged: Self Care. I wanted to share about ways to cultivate self-care into your daily routine, and about how I helped my son create a peace space at home. Click HERE for a direct link to the article.

I reached out to Mandala this past summer to ask about an idea I had for writing (I will share this idea another time once it develops further). They asked if I would be interested in writing something about parenting, which I was so psyched to do! I’m finding this new passion for writing that I haven’t had since my 10th grade Creative Writing class… it feels really good to share my thoughts and ideas, however it is slightly terrifying. My words are completely exposed for any criticism or judgment. It is never my intention to come off sounding like I know more than anyone else, or that my “way” of parenting works better than someone else’s. This is simply my own path. I can write and speak only from my own life experiences, just like everyone else. So, if what I share is of interest then that’s great… if there is any benefit from reading what I write than I am happy. However, if nothing resonates with you, then I am OKAY with that, too. After all, we might all LOVE ice cream (I mean, who doesn’t)… but the same flavor may not agree with each of us. There are so many varieties.

I invite you ALL to share your comments, ideas, suggestions, questions…

Parents… You rock!

villageHow many of you out there are single parents?

How many of you are married, but feel like a single parent some, or most of the time?

How many of you are parenting equally with the other parent- meaning, you each take on about 50% of the “parenting” duties?

Well…. I honor ALL of you. Yes. All of you.

Parenting is not an easy job. Whether you are sharing the responsibilities as a parent with someone equally, or taking on most of them yourself- it can feel overwhelming some days. Babies staying awake all night, or toddlers waking up every few hours when they are sick. Children fighting you about bedtime and not wanting to brush their teeth. The mornings when you’ve literally been awake for 60 minutes and already you want everyone to go back to sleep.

Yep. We have ALL been there. We all know that instead of yelling, you are quietly talking to yourself, taking deep breaths, and reminding yourself that it is most important to stay calm. We all know how hard it is to be mindful and patient when you, yourself, may be feeling tired and cranky. (Click HERE to visit an amazing website about Mindful Parenting).

You are doing a wonderful job though. Truly.

Don’t let a tough day make you feel like you are any less as a parent. You are wonderful!

Allow yourself to exude GRATITUDE for ALL that YOU are! Peel away the layers of disappointment and guilt. They won’t take you anywhere. Those feelings will leave you stuck in yesterday…. there is no time for that!

Start fresh. Stay present. That is where all the magic is happening.

And remember, there are so many ways to connect with parents locally and world-wide. If you notice someone who may need a little extra “boost” as they navigate their parenting journey, reach out to them. Compliment them on something positive. Invite them to try something new with you. Host a play date. Sometimes all someone needs is to feel connected and supported.

Click here to check out the book written by Pilar Placone Ph.D. entitled,  Mindful Parent Happy Child: A Guide To Raising Joyful and Resilient Children.

mindful book

 

 

 

 

Where Are All The Helpers?

It’s funny the places I happen to be when all of a sudden, an idea for writing comes to mind. Today, it was the dressing room of T.J. Maxx. Yep. I bought nothing, but came out with an idea!

You see, I’ve been feeling unsure of what to write about for the past few weeks… should it be about Yoga, Parenting, or about how to keep your Holidays simple with children…? Well, I’m thankful for the T.J. Maxx dressing room today because a very important question came to my mind… WHERE ARE ALL THE HELPERS IN THE WORLD?

mr rogers

There is an astonishing amount of CRAP going on in the world. Today. Right this very moment. Violence, war, drug abuse, children being used and abused as soldiers… not to mention all of the poverty. And yet here I am writing on a computer from the comfort and safety of my home. What a blessing, truly, it blows my mind.

 However, what I want to focus on (amidst the chaos of this world) is the fact that there are GOOD… no… GREAT things happening, too.

Over the past few weeks the media has been sharing stories of extreme injustice and racism in the US… from the death of Michael Brown to the death of Eric Garner (and everything else in between). These displays of inequality make it easy to feel hopeless. After watching some videos for myself, I felt sick to my stomach. Regardless of your opinion about these events that have happened, the question still remains: what kind of world are we creating for the next generation of children… and their children… and so on? What are we teaching our youth today about power, honesty, helping others, and about race?

It may be easy to feel somewhat removed from all of the dangers of the world, especially if you live in a safe environment, with food, shelter and other luxuries. But that is just rubbish. We are never removed. That is a false fantasy. We are all interconnected. What happens to one person creates a trickle effect for what will happen to another. That is my belief at least.

Being a parent during times of joy can feel great… all those warm & fuzzy feelings, and wishing for time to stop right in the moment because you feel so full of life. But then there are the times when tragedy happens, and those are the times that being a parent scares the shit out of me. The times when school shootings and bombs being dropped over innocent human beings have happened, left me wondering what I can do to make a difference to stop the violence. Knowing that I have a child now who must endure all of the suffering that consumes this world is an uneasy feeling. However, it doesn’t always need to stay that way. What would life be if it was just led by fear?

We (adults, mentors, teachers, parents) have a responsibility to make this world a better place- not just for our own benefit, but for those youngsters who are still painting the bathroom walls with toothpaste, and making mud pies outside. There are many ways to teach children about KINDNESS, HELPING, and CARING FOR OTHERS. One way that I have found to be particularly helpful is by pointing out all of the “helpers” in the world. So for instance, say my son and I are walking down the street and a loud fire truck goes blaring past us, I help to explain how the firefighters are heading to help someone. Or if we see a homeless person on the street, I try to offer to buy them a hot drink or some food. This shows my son that he can be a helper, too, in a variety of ways. Each day, there are so many teachable moments, and I for one believe strongly in learning through experience.

Another resource for focusing on the GOODNESS that is in the world is by reading books that illustrate kindness and compassion. One of my son’s favorite books is called Good People Everywhere written by Lynea Gillen, MS,  and illustrated by Kristina Swarner. This book takes the reader through different situations of life, showing how one person helps another. It’s beautifully illustrated, and is a simple story for children as young as 2 years old to comprehend, yet still leaving room for so much dialogue with older children.

good people everywhere

Here is a list of a few other favorite books (click on the title of the book for a direct link):

Little Helpers: published by innovativeKids

26 Big Things Small Hands Do: written by Colleen Paratore

The Teddy Bear: written by David McPhail

Because Brian Hugged His Mother: written by David L. Rice

The Colors of Us: written by Karen Katz

Buddha at Bedtime: written by Dharmachari Nagaraja

Peaceful Piggy Meditation: written by Kerry Lee MacLean

What Does Peace Feel Like? : written by Vladimir Radunsky and children just like you from around the world.

I guess my intention for writing about being a “helper” and listing all of these books is to spread the word about being a shining light in the world. The world desperately needs more helpers, and what better place to begin that process than with children! We must create a generation of compassionate activists-  people who want to make a change to benefit others, and who stand up for that change. By doing so, there is no fear left. There is only confidence. Knowing that the world is in the hands of remarkable young human beings will feel empowering.

Please share any books that you love and that promote the messages of peace, kindness, compassion, understanding, and love. And share any thoughts you have… I’d love to learn from all the readers out there! Visit www.childpeacebooks.org for an incredible list of books for children.

Let’s Get Real With Parenting…

changeFrom a Buddhist point of view, everything is temporary. There is nothing that does not change. This can either induce extreme anxiety or contentment. Or a bit of both.

Your child will never be the same as they are in this very moment… their mind, and body are constantly changing and developing. It really is wild to think about! Even though these thoughts may bring on sadness because our children are growing up so fast, the reality of things being temporary can really help with many life situations while parenting.

I don’t know about you, but life with a 3-year-old can be pretty interesting. My son is a relatively easy-going child, however, he can fall apart just like anyone else. When this happens, it is a true test to what my threshold of patience is. And this varies day-to-day. When I am able to stay calm and centered, he definitely benefits in so many ways. If I can remain somewhat neutral to whatever it is that is happening, his overall mood can shift somewhat easily. But honestly, how is this possible every single time? Maybe I need to cultivate more patience, or be “less busy”… but it IS a challenge to remain calm 100% of the time. And you know what, that’s OKAY. I am coming to terms with the fact that it is completely acceptable to be where I am at this moment in my own journey, and to support my son in his own journey. Yes, we are journeying together in life, but we are also separate individuals. What I have found to be one of the most helpful tools in my parenting “toolbox” is to be REAL, and honest. So, if I yell, we talk about it later. We talk about how it made him feel to hear my voice really loud. And it hurts my heart to hear his answer sometimes, but it is necessary. He is helping me grow, and learn, and change old habits.

I’ve recently been on a book buying spree (thank you Amazon.com) for both my son and myself. One children’s book we just received is called Harriet, You’ll Drive Me Wild! written by Mem Fox. In this book, a little girl named Harriet continues to make messes all over her house. Her mother doesn’t like to yell, and tries to be so patient and calm, until finally, she erupts! What’s nice in this book is that Harriet and her mother talk about what happened. They both listen to each other and share their feelings, and afterward, they are able to be silly together again. There is resolution, and there is change.

Harriet book

Our children’s feelings and emotions change so many times throughout the course of the day. It is really helpful for me to remember this and to tell myself: “Ok, he may be really upset right now, but it is only temporary and this, too, will change.” I find that by trying to be mindful of this, it helps to diffuse any extra “reaction” I may have within a situation that is unfolding. It allows me to stay more present with my own feelings, as well as with my son, or whoever I am with. It can be so easy to become overwhelmed by the intensity of situations, so just remember: All things are temporary. Breathe.

It blows my mind how children can be so incredibly intense and emotional one minute, and then shift into being completely silly or playful. Children are masters at “moving on.” We (adults) have so much to learn from them. Children are also incredibly forgiving and caring. They have such incredible imaginations and are always up for an adventure. What a way to live. Intense, loving, adventurous, forgiving…

So, I know life can be a rollercoaster at times. And sometimes events happen that really do challenge us and force us into this area of unknown territory… but I promise, if you remain open and receptive, you will learn something from that experience.

A few years ago I was talking to a Tibetan Buddhist nun named Venerable Robina Courtin. In our conversation, it quickly became clear that I was struggling with feeling like I wasn’t doing enough- basically, I expected WAY too much from myself and it just wasn’t necessary. Venerable Robina very kindly told me to do something every night before bed: To write down or tell myself that I AM ENOUGH. To forgive and let go of the things that do not serve me, and to know, truly in my heart, that I have done a good job that day… as a mother to my son, and as a human being.

And you know what… doing that really makes a difference. Every day we have a clean slate, a new opportunity to grow, practice, and cultivate the attitude we wish to have in life. So, my fellow parents out there… try it out. Try being kinder and more forgiving with yourself and do something GOOD for yourself this week. Perhaps take a little time to yourself : go for a walk, take a nap, read a book, have a hot bath, sit in complete silence, start a gratitude journal (self-care article). Do something that is beneficial for your overall well-being because it will DIRECTLY affect your children and family… for the better (try to relax for 2 minutes).

Share about what you have done for some self-care and let me know if you notice any differences with your interactions with others, especially your children. Good luck… and remember, you ARE doing a great job!