Break It Down

Driving back from our short holiday trip to visit PA with a car full of amazing presents from our generous family, Drew (my husband) and I started talking about ways to organize some areas in our house to make room for all of our new stuff. The conversation started out about the play area in our basement and snowballed into all of the places that needed some cleaning out and organizing: the linen closet, the boys’ bedroom closet, my desk, the living room bookcases, the shed… And finally, the Storage Room. Perhaps bolstered by the “new year, new <insert whatever needs improving here>” sentiment, we threw ourselves head first into cleaning out and organizing as soon as we arrived home.

Drew was particularly keen to get the Storage Room stored out. I think at one time in the past, this room had been used by previous tenants as a bedroom but it’s not really suited to be such a thing. It’s small, with a low ceiling, a narrow doorway and a high tiny basement window, tucked out of the way in a corner of the basement. It’s not really good for anything except storing stuff so that’s how it got it’s name. But as we started pulling out boxes and bins, we decided a more accurate name would be the Junk Room. It turned out to be a way bigger project than either of us expected. How in the world did we accumulate so much stuff?

By the end of the first day of our Operation Organize, our entire house looked far worse than when we started with boxes and bins and stuff in every room and in every corner. We went to bed feeling tired, cranky, and liked we had accomplished nothing at all.

By the next morning, I realized our mistake. We had this huge vision for our space but we didn’t really break it down into manageable parts.

I think this just might be the pitfall of every New Year’s resolution ever. Our giant visions for self-improvement are only as good as the parts. The good news is that I have some great opportunities this year for you to “break it down” and accomplish whatever it is you are setting out to do. Prioritizing self care? Get started by snagging the last room at my January Restorative Yoga Retreat. Do you have handstand on you list of to do’s for 2016? Join my 9-week “Get On Up in Handstand” series! Or just do a mountain pose while you wait in line at the store. Take 10 minutes for a living room floor savasana. Tackle your vision for yourself and your life this year one little piece at a time. One pose at a time. Or in the case of my “Storage” Room, one box of stuff at a time.

My yoga teacher friend Galen posted on Facebook yesterday that what he learned in 2015 is “the fewer things I try to do, the more I get done.” Today, we took a page from Galen’s book and started the day by saying we were just going to finish the shed. And you know what? It worked! The shed is done, the kids’ closets are done, and the Storage room has only three more boxes to sort through. Small goals, big progress. Let’s do this 2016!

Evil Email or Spam-iest Time of the Year

Sadie (my two-year old) asked Drew (my husband) why he was taking a picture when he was looking at his phone. He told her he was reading his email. She said, “Your evil?” We had a good laugh about that.

More often than not, I think evil is the perfect way to describe my email inbox. And especially at this time of year. Even before the plates were cleared from Thanksgiving dinner, my inbox was filled with messages that haven’t stopped since then.

“Free Shipping Today Only!”

“25% Off Sale Just for You!”

“Don’t Miss These Great Deals!”

It’s basically a whole pile of junk mail telling me what to buy and from where, how to think, how much and what to eat, what experience I’m supposed to be having this holiday season.

The messages from social media, news media, even family and friends, the “outside” voices are so loud, so prolific, it feels easy for my voice inside to be overtaken. But really, all of that stuff is just spam. In fact, this is the spam-iest time of the year, as my friend Felicity says.

In the same way that I delete or unsubscribe or just ignore and delete those unwanted advertising emails, I have to keep reminding myself that I have the capacity to shut out those unwelcome and usually conflicting messages of the season. This time of year seems to demand that I be social and outgoing, shop and consume, celebrate and be joyful. But the truth is that sometimes I just don’t feel like that.

It feels like the whole season is one long, giant backbend. Now, I love a good heart opener as much as the next girl. (Actually, that’s not quite true. I often feel like of anxious and unsettled in backbends but that’s another story for another time.) Lots of times, especially as it is getting dark so early and colder outside, I have no desire to burst out in song and do a jig. I just want to curl up with a nice hot cup of tea, a book, and a purring kitty in my lap. When I come to my mat, I find myself lingering in the hip openers, the forward folds and long savasanas.

Yet even when I’m drawn to hide under the covers, literally and metaphorically, I always feel better when I get on my mat. Whether it is a warm flowy practice or a quiet savasana, whether I am alone or in a group, yoga resets the volume on all of those outside voices and messages. It’s like the trash icon for the spam, all of that “evil” email. I don’t want to be another person telling you what to experience at this time of year, but I will recommend that when you feel tired, overwhelmed, and like you’ve lost track of what you really need and want, yoga could be just the thing you need. So come see me on the mat now and then this month. And very best wishes for a safe, happy, and healthy end to your year, my friends!


The Good Kind of Selfish

My dear friend Susan Timmons Marks always says when she leads iRest practices, “there is no selfishness in self care.”

I really understood that, like REALLY understood it, when I went away for five days to Boston. By myself. No kids. No husband. No students. No teaching.

It was selfish. It was indulgent. And it was exactly what I needed.

Every year the venerable Judith Hanson Laster teaches a training in Boston called “Experiential Anatomy”. I’ve been wanting to take this for at least eight years. Seriously. But it wasn’t until this year that I finally made the decision that I had to go.

What was holding me back before was that it seemed like such a selfish decision. To leave my husband to deal with all three of the kids for five days?! (This has absolutely nothing to do with my husband’s ability to manage our children. Because I work on so many evenings and have for a long time, he is the master of the solo dinner/bathtime/bedtime routine. So of course he is completely capable, but I know how exhausting it is to do all of that, plus all of the house chores, and then morning routine, too!)

There was also the general organization of it. Calling favors for babysitting so my husband could keep on schedule with his work, finding great subs for my classes, making sure there was enough food and clean clothes for everyone before I left…

Not to mention the expense of the whole trip! Air travel, paying to stay some place, the cost for the training itself…

Just the idea of leaving made me feel guilty. So indulgent!

But while I was there, I realized just how much I needed it.

In taking care of myself and only myself for five whole days, I realized just how much time I spend taking care of other people. Cooking for my family, cleaning my house, putting bandaids on skinned knees, propping my students to help them rest, mentoring apprentices… Having a week without teaching, cooking, or giving advice, made me recognize how integral taking care of others is to my life and who I am. Caring for other people truly brings me joy and sense of purpose. But sometimes I get so immersed in my role of care-taker that I forget that I need to be cared for too. This trip helped me recognize that things were way out of balance for me.

I returned from Boston a more enthusiastic teacher, with a better understanding of my motivations on the mat, with exciting class plans and new things to explore. I came back with a greater appreciation for those obnoxious early morning bed invaders. I actually missed cooking and folding laundry while I was away. Everyone missed me while I was away and I missed them too! I came back a more grateful teacher, mom, and wife.

Turns out a little selfishness and indulgence is just what I needed. You too? Maybe you need a weekend yoga retreat, an extra piece of cake, an hour of sleeping in. These things help us relax and refresh. They remind us of all the amazing things we have and help us stay focused on what we really want and need. So it’s good to be selfish. Sometimes.

Back to school

It’s back to school time in Chez Lemerise. What strikes me the most is the change I see in my kids and their friends after being away all summer. It’s not just that everyone has grown a few inches and are wearing new shoes, but there a clear shift in their energy and mine as well.

It is such a big time here that I sometimes forget that not everyone has this big transition at the end of August and the beginning of September like our household does. And yet in class last night one of my students remarked how even though she doesn’t have kids, she can feel the back to school enthusiasm and it renews her interest in yoga.

Whether you or members of your family are heading back to school or not, it really is a great time to recommit to your yoga practice. If a weekly class isn’t in your schedule these days, check out one of my workshops. Or maybe you need a whole weekend away. My fall retreat at the beginning of October can fit that bill.

I hope to see you on the mat this month or maybe at that PTA meeting.

Procrastination be gone!

In general, in most parts of my life and work, I’m a get-it-done kind of lady. But when it comes to this one particular item – writing a monthly blog post – I’m the biggest procrastinator ever.

I always have really good excuses…

“I just got back from a really busy (and totally amazing!) weekend retreat.”

“I’ve been juggling some childcare challenges.”

“I’ve been working on lots of new class plans.”

“I’ve spent time cooking for some friends and neighbors who needed a little help.”

And none of that would be a lie. But the real truth (get ready for the yogi confessional) is, quite simply…

I’m procrastinating.

In my procrastinating this month, I think I might have come to recognize why I put this off and always seem to find other “more important” things to do when it’s newsletter writing time.

I care a lot what you think. It’s been going on for awhile, like, ever since I can remember.

And my drive for you to think highly of me rears its ugly head when it comes time to write something. I get worried that you might think what I’m writing about is lame. Or that I’m bothering you by sending this newsletter.

Now in most things, I’ve mostly gotten over myself. I don’t care so much about what you think of my clothes or my hair or my post-baby belly (okay, maybe I’m still working on that one!) I don’t really care if you like my classes because I’m really confident in the value of what I’m offering. And I acknowledge that I am way more judgmental about myself than any of you are likely to be of me.

But when it comes to things that will be photographed, or in print, or on the interwebs for(ever?) a long time to come, I’m almost paralyzed by my need to be perfect because of what you might think and so I would totally prefer to avoid than to actually do.

So instead, I do the things I love like cooking, practicing yoga, planning classes, doing laundry, going to the car wash, watering the garden, playing with the kids…

And while all of those things are helpful and good in their own way, I totally know that there are just those things you have to make yourself do because they move you forward toward your goals, even if they make you uncomfortable. For me, it’s writing a newsletter. Putting myself and my offerings out there whether you like it or not so that hopefully you will all come to class and I can make a living as a yoga teacher.

Here’s the real point of all of this: are you reading this because you are avoiding something you should or have to do? If so, own it. Call yourself on it and then go! Get on with it, friend! Stop procrastinating. Get on your yoga mat. Finish your work. Clean your house. Call your mother. Go to the dentist. Go to bed. Whatever it is for you, go and do it.



How does your garden grow?

Before all this rainy weather that showed up, it seemed like all of my yoga students were coming to class with aches and pains from a few weeks of gardening. ‘Tis the season for tidying up the yard and clearing out all of those unwelcome garden creepers, right?

I have to admit to you that my flower beds were looking pretty rough. I’ve got the greenest of thumbs when it comes to houseplants but the outdoor varieties? Not my bag. The truth is, I don’t really like to dig in the dirt.

I tried to spin this gardening chore into a fun family activity. After all, my kids love getting dirty or so their end-of-the-day clothes might suggest! But after just a few minutes, it was clear that an almost 2 year old and a 4 year old do not make the best gardeners. Big surprise, right?

I mean, they did pull the weeds. And they also pulled up lots of flowers. My dismay at the situation was almost immediately dissolved by the wise 8-year old yoga in the family who pointed out that there was something really great still there (besides the cute garden gnome!)


Swami Sivananda wrote about the similarities between gardening and yoga. He likened the mental space to a beautiful garden with so much potential to create life and beauty. And also often plagued with weeds – unconscious habits that create mental and physical distress, sometimes suffocating the positive and healthy things that are struggling to take hold. He described the practice of yoga as a weeding out our habitual, unconscious patterns in order to encourage more conscious “patterns that are expressive of the higher powers and virtues of enlightenment.”

Despite my aversion to the dirtiness of gardening, I completely dig this metaphor (dumb pun totally intended!) Sometimes my yoga practice is precise, like an expert gardener with perfect plucks and tugs that remove the exact bit of tension or stress, leaving a warm, fuzzy afterglow, all the lovely flowers in tact.

Other times, my yoga practice is like my kids in the flower beds: rough and tumble, sweaty, dirty, and undiscerning. At first, those times can feel annoying, unexpected, grumpiness-inducing. And yet…the weeds are gone. Even though the flowers are too, the space that remains is a place to grow something new. Something to nourish us, heal us, help us make the most of the life we are living.

So don’t be afraid to pull up the flowers with the weeds. Because maybe like my kids in the garden, your practice is just making the space for you to grow some green beans and cucumbers. See you on the mat or in the garden!