Teach Them Young.

Originally published on elephantjournal.com 
January 13, 2013

photo by Robert Sturman

photo by Robert Sturman

No doubt about it, parenting is challenging.

I gave birth to Griffin at home, in table pose, on a well-worn yoga mat. We were in front of the fire, in the middle of the living room. The mat was green and helped hold my focus during Griffin’s lighting speed, two-hour delivery.

You probably know which mat it is: It’s the one with the large tree and floating leaves. Gaiam had it on sale with a matching mat bag several years ago. I’m sure a million people have the same one. Mine was special enough to me to be one of the few things I needed during labor. I had taken it with me on my pilgrimage to Santa Barbara nine months earlier, to the White Lotus Foundation, where it comforted me consistently during the transformative experience that was my first yoga teacher training.

Its California wear and tear soothed me during that riveting night in December of 2009. I still have it—though it now bears the even more poignant markings of Griffin’s birth. I didn’t know it then, but that night, on that mat, a new kind of practice was born.

He loves building towers out of yoga blocks, and skates over the studio’s hardwood floors in his socks. It’s not unusual for him to join in at the end of one of my classes for savasana and a chant an Om or two.

It wasn’t always this way though. Back in 2009, pregnant with Griffin, I made a ridiculous decision that being a Mom wasn’t going to change my yoga.

Wow, was that naive.

It’s difficult to admit (and still makes me feel guilty from time to time) but I struggled with postpartum depression. I resented my own child for taking away my me time, and I resented the world for what I then saw as a detour of my dharma from teaching to parenting.

I labored to find any sort of balance in my life, and I was angry. It took me the first year and a half of Griffin’s life to figure out how to bring my yoga practice and parenting together. But eventually I surrendered to the inevitability that my practice was going to include my son, and being a mother was going to require a serious shift in how I would navigate the rest of my life.

Since then, I have made it a conscious decision to incorporate Griffin into the very essence of what I hope to accomplish with my practice: a deeper sense of equanimity, and alignment with integrity. And so whenever possible I bring him into the fold.

Yoga began for me, as it does for many of us, as a collection of beautiful poses. Then it became a collection of tools I used to build and shape my life, and today shape the way I build my life with my loved ones.

I think this is a common yogic experience.

For many of us it begins with the asanas—we practice and reap the physical benefits, the feel-good highs and the calming moments of stillness. And then, like magic, it turns into something more: a level head, a quieter mind, a meditation practice, a change in diet, or a commitment to healthier mindful living. Maybe we dig a little deeper and study up on the traditional teachings.

If we can integrate our practice into how we run our homes and work our relationships, our children absorb yoga by proxy.

Yogas Citta Vritti Nirodhah

Yoga is the resolution of the agitations of the mind

I recently took a workshop with Raghunath in Boston, and he started out his dharma talk by speaking to this very evolution. He reminded us that while we were there to practice asana, we were really there to use the practice to clear the vritti, or fluctuations of the mind, and that this could be best accomplished with the breath.

In my practice I have found that indeed, the moments when we slow down our breath, we can slow down the vritti and find a self-awareness that resides only within spaciousness.

“Yoga is a way of moving into stillness in order to experience the truth of who you are.” ~Erich Schiffmann

When Griffin gets upset now, I’ll hold him and ask him to look into my eyes and breathe with me. Sometimes I put his hand on my chest, and rest mine on his. I try to help him find space between his cries or complaints and simultaneously put a pause on my own reactivity. It doesn’t always work, but sometimes all it takes is a little pranayama and touch, and my amped-up toddler will calm himself down to a place in which we can both be still. We are together practicing mindfulness.

“Mindfulness frees us of forgetfulness and dispersion and makes it possible to live fully each minute of life. Mindfulness enables us to live.” ~Thich Nhat Hanh

No doubt about it, parenting is challenging.

It’s one of the hardest (and most rewarding) jobs on the planet. It’s difficult not to take a toddler’s temper tantrum personally, or stay calm in the midst of a Stop N’ Shop Def Con 5–sized meltdown.

Many of us parents find ourselves pressed for time and end up multitasking three or four different things in any given moment—folding the laundry while helping the toddler get his breakfast down, or answering e-mails on our iPhones, while skimming Huffington Post on the desktop and answering questions about the day’s itinerary. It’s all forgivable, but it’s not very mindful. There is no room for space in a torrent of activity like this and it can make usand our children feel claustrophobic.

Now when I find myself having a day like this, my yoga practice reminds me I’m not in alignment with my beliefs.

Multitasking, no matter how time-saving it may feel, produces half-baked ideas and an overcrowded mind. It’s ultimately anxiety-producing.

And it’s not yoga.

The next time you get caught-up in the whirlwind of your “life”/the vritti, practice bringing your attention back to the present moment. Invite into your heart the practice of mindfulness. You will be rewarded with tiny or not so tiny arms wrapped around you, keeping warm and grateful and grounded in a shared experience of the present moment.

“May we learn to allow the stillness in our hearts to live in our minds.” ~Elena Brower

Your children will learn. When you set a positive, mindful, spacious example for them when they are young, they will learn and lift off that much earlier and soar before your eyes.

____________________________________________________________________________________________

Caitlin Marcoux profileCaitlin is a yoga teacher, workshop producer, mother, dancer, healer and writer. She is nationally certified in massage therapy and has been studying yoga on and off for over 13 years. A former modern dancer, she fuses her passion for music and modern dance with yoga, keeping her flow creative, playful and fresh. Caitlin lives on the tiny Island of Nantucket, Massachusetts year-round with her partner and three-year-old satguru Griffin, where she is an advocate of prenatal yoga, natural childbirth, midwifery, elegant tattoos, rockin’ music and eating like you give a damn. She teaches regularly at The Yoga Room and has recently begun teaching workshops in the greater New England area. Caitlin blogs about her practice on and off the mat on her website and you can find her on Facebook and Twitter.

 

Holidays: not just for Suckers

Season’s Greetings and Happy Freakin’ Holidays

Holiday 2012{photo:Robert Sturman}

Yeah, I like it. Christmas that is. I like Solstice and New Year’s Day, and Valentine’s Day, and Birthdays too. Maybe I’m a sucker. Or maybe I just think that any chance to celebrate shouldn’t be wasted. I like rituals; simple ones like lighting candles and incense, toasting at a birthday or graduation and dressing smartly for the right occasion. I also like ones that involve intricacy and planning; Blessing Ways, Weddings, even Memorials.

Ritual invokes our attention, intensely. For many of us who struggle with staying present, a ritual or milestone event can help slow things down. They get us to pause in a very concentrated way.

All that being said though, I can get myself a little wound up with expectations. For example, I know that birthdays are really special to me – especially other peoples birthdays. I love giving gifts and making people feel good, so I get really get excited when my partner’s birthday approaches. Ironically though, he doesn’t place so much significance on it, nor carries around a special attachment to the date. I have found myself crestfallen when in the past, he’s decided to skip town on his birthday. SO, I’m learning to let that go… It’s his birthday after all. If I didn’t have such high expectations around how I see myself celebrating him (her, them, whomever) I’d spare myself the suffering that comes with disappointment.

This year, I’m trying to shed my expectations around Christmas. Not an easy thing to do for a ritualistic family-centered mama like myself. But that’s the plan. My kid is with his Daddy Paul this year, and instead of being with my parents and sisters on Christmas night, we’re splitting the holiday into Christmas Eve dinner (which we get to attend tonight) and Christmas dinner, which my BF and I will spend with our dear, dear friends the Murphy’s and their family. It’s pretty outside the box.

Turn it up-side-down though, and there’s a lot of good to be found. I get to wake up tomorrow morning and hold my man. I’ll get to casually and slowly open the presents he’s given me, and I’ll get to watch with my undivided attention as he opens his. We’ll have a quiet morning together and maybe walk down to the beach. My gracious ex has been kind enough to part with little G for an hour around bunch time and then I’ll get him back in the late afternoon. It will be lovely to celebrate with our friends, who are Griffin’s godparents, and were among the very first people to meet Griffin when he was born. I’d say it’s going to be great – but then there go the expectations again.

So, in honor of starting NEW traditions, I’m celebrating Christmas this year by teaching a pay-what-you-like Flow class at The Yoga Room. If you’re interested show up at 2pm, we’ll probably go until 3:15 or 3:30pm. It’s not on the regular schedule, and you can’t pay for it with your class card . Bring a piece of paper with one word written on it. Let it be the first thing that comes to mind. Bring cash, a re-gift, cookies, or whatever feels like a good way to contribute.

~Happy Holidays, Love & Light, and with few expectations,

Caitlin

Nantucket Chronicle Article: Wild Yoga on Nantucket

Yoga in the Wild

by Peter Brace

Originally published in the Nantucket Chronicle on December 7th 2012

 

YOGA IS AN ESSENTIAL ELEMENT OF ISLAND LIFE FOR MANY NANTUCKETERS…

…So why not practice it out in the wild.
by Peter B. Brace on Dec 7th, 2012

Yoga in the wild

Article and photos by Peter B. Brace

Balance, strength and love. For me, those three things give flight to my seven-foot frame in the practice yoga.
I’ve been a yogi for more than nine years now. My joints, specifically, my hips, but also my knees, knuckles, back and ankles can attest to the benefits of my practice. My heart center, where my love comes from, can speak to the warm, communal and supportive salve applied to my soul during each class and which lingers inside me from one class to the next.
The physical strength gained from continued or, in my case lately, a semi-continual yoga practice, is considerable and significant, and can be measured when I stop practice for a period of time, say, three weeks or longer because when I return to practice, I’m aware of the strength and flexibility that I’ve lost by not practicing. When I am back on track and have been so for several months, which is where I hope I’m headed with this latest re-entry into sweating and wobbling, I still can’t imagine practicing the postures on anything but the hard, level floor of a yoga studio or some similarly stable surface, so yeah, yoga on a standup paddleboard, not so much.
In October, one of my instructors at the Nantucket Yoga Room, Caitlin Marcoux invited me to take photos of her and her partner, Burr Tupper, and some of their friends doing poses and being photographed by a nationally known photographer named Robert Sturman based in Santa Monica, Calif. Sturman, a self-described artist using a camera, does portraits of people practicing yoga in outdoor settings. Having traveled around the globe to, as he says, celebrate different cultures in such places as Europe, Cuba, India and Nepal, using his camera, Sturman advanced his yoga practice beyond the mat by capturing yogis and yoginis posing in the wild.

Sturman:

“It started because I ultimately wanted to bring a yoga practice into my life because I had noticed that a lot of artists live very self-destructive lives and I wanted to find a way to rewrite that script and create much more of a positive experience for myself, so I started practicing yoga and I started to change a lot of things.
There’s a great quote by Picasso, which says “art is the elimination of the unnecessary” and I found also that when I was practicing yoga that I sweat so much out, I let go of so much while I was on the mat that it was also a process of eliminating the unnecessary. So, as soon as it started to make an impact on my life and [allow me] to create the kind of man I wanted to be, I started to look around and I saw how beautiful and poetic the asana’s looked, and it was so beautiful to me that I just started to make art of it.
I feel like I’m an artist and I’m a figurative artist, and having people in the midst of beauty doing beautiful things just makes more beauty, and yoga is an immensely beautiful poetic practice and so is the world, so that’s what my work is about; celebrating that.”

Before his celebration of yoga through a SLR digital camera began, eventually leading to his becoming an official artist for 2005 Grammy Awards and for the U.S. Olympics, Sturman took Polaroids, manipulating the image right out of the camera by carving up the surface and accentuating the lines and the forms while the chemistry was still viscous.

Sturman:

“When Polaroid went out of business, they divided up their film between artists that had done some nice things with their products and I happened to be one of those artists and so that’s when I made the transition into another medium, just straight photography. At the same time, I transitioned into really studying yoga.”

Following Sturman’s culture quest with his camera was the next stage in his career, a more in-depth study of yoga through his lens that perpetuated his photographic career theme in which he celebrates the poetry of life. Marcoux, who got her yoga instructor certification from the White Lotus Yoga Foundation in Santa Barbara, Calif., connected with Sturman via social media. She then invited him to come out to Nantucket in October to shoot her and other yoga practitioners, including her sister Arial Marcoux, Tupper, and friends Juliet Loranger, founder of New Bedford’s Yoga on Union and Petra Ledkovsky, a yoga instructor at Power Yoga of Cape Cod Marcoux met atShiva Rea teacher training in 2009, pulling poses in scenic locations around the island.
What this meant to me when Caitlin dangled the making of the making of yoga in the wild, in addition to returning her many favors doled out on the mat by the imparting of her knowledge, was affirmation that building my poses should only happen on level mediums. Think it isn’t a challenge to cop a pose on a beach, near a lighthouse with distractions such as foghorns, passing boats and swarming gulls or out in a thick forest with muddy terrain? It’s every bit as tough as one might surmise. Though as yogis we’re taught to inhabit a boundless realm, I know the limits of my muscle-bound and heavy, massive body. But, I’m glad to have something to push back on too and was delighted to get the chance to witness the grace and skill of those advanced well beyond my own current station on the mat.
Sturman shot Caitlin and her friends out in some of Nantucket’s most beautiful locations and I had the pleasure of watching and photographing them wriggle into poses I aspire to perfect. I was amazed at Caitlin’s focus and balance on a short, narrow piece of plywood just beneath the surface of Miacomet Pond and equally impressed with Burr’s poses on a log suspended several feet from the ground in Squam Swamp.
Of them all, the sequences at Miacomet Pond where Tupper had submerged the platform in the pond, seemed the most challenging for Caitlin, considering the limits of the platform and the water temperature in late October.
There were poses at sunrise on Brant Point, a session at Miacomet Beach and then the Squam Swamp shoot, which was sublime with Caitlin and Burr posing individually and with each other against the backdrop of twisty black tupelo trees, the ground carpeted with a rainbow palette of summer’s leaves and my dog wandering in and out the shots.

So, check out the photos with this post, as there are many, maybe explore Sturman’s web site through the link near the top of this post and definitely look into beginning your yoga practice at the Nantucket Yoga Room here on the island.
Thank you to Robert and Caitlin for including me in the fun.

Robert’s finished body of work can be seen in the portfolios on his website. All his work is available for purchase.

 {photo: Robert Sturman}