|Posted on February 8, 2017 at 7:10 AM||comments (0)|
By Diana Scharf
My husband has me completely hooked on Netflix's Daredevil series. For those of you who don't know, Daredevil is about the crime-fighting adventures of the very sexy Matt Murdoch, who has been blind since he was nine. Luckily, Murdoch's other senses work in overdrive, and he relies on them to "see." He notices how many heartbeats are in a room, senses the movement of others, changes in breathing patterns. He notices the smells in the air, a person's body heat, and the like. This all comes in very handy when determining where the bad guys are, how many lie in wait, and where to throw a punch or block one. Have you guessed what his real superpower is? It's MINDFULNESS!
Well. We can't all hear a heartbeat from across the room, and we definitely should not use our mindfulness to dispense vigilante justice. (Actually, our legal department wants me to repeat that: DO NOT, I REPEAT, DO NOT DISPENSE VIGILANTE JUSTICE. Please leave those matters to the police. Thank you).
But we can think of mindfulness as a super power. We can all become better people by just paying attention, being aware, and noticing the little things that tend to get overlooked. Does your friend's voice sound a little different today? Do you hear extra stress, sadness or happiness in it? Ask her what's going on--she will appreciate your kindness! Does your significant other carry a little extra tension in his shoulders today? Give him a hug and let him know that you love him--seems like he could use that right now.
For kids, the benefits of mindfulness are really amazing. According to a recent article in Time, kids who practiced mindfulness scored fifteen percent higher in math than their peers. They also showed better social behavior, were less aggressive and better liked. They showed improved focus in school, lower stress levels and overall improved well being. What a gift to give to your child!
As always, with very young children, the challenge is making it relevant so that they stick with it. So if your kid loves superheroes, point out how they use mindfulness: can your child also use super hearing? Ask him to really focus on what's happening around him. What does he notice? Is your child a super sleuth? Give her a magnifying glass and ask what clues she can discover. Maybe your kid can use fairy magic--what does it reveal? What can they notice in the world around them that other people ignore?
Yesterday my daughter decided she wanted to paint. She had a fantastic time (and so did my kitchen floor)! When she finished her painting, she turned her attention to her hands. "Mommy, this feels so good on my hands!" I asked what the paint felt like. "Squelchy." I asked how it felt when she rubbed her hands. Could she make a bigger squelch by squeezing her fists or patting her arm? I asked how how the brush felt, and could she notice the difference between the bristles, the metal and the handle. She didn't answer but I saw her very deliberately touch each part of her brush and take in the sensations.
Then we cleaned up and ate dinner, and I have to tell you, that child was delightful for the rest of the night. She ate her vegetables, didn't fight me when I said it was time for bed and even skipped her usual bedtime routine of begging me to stay with her so she wouldn't be lonely. Super power indeed!
Before I kissed her goodnight, knowing that I was either about to sit down and write this blog or get back to watching Daredevil, I asked her to be still and tell me what sounds she heard. I am not kidding you, she told me she could hear her heartbeat! She didn't hear it from across the room they way Matt Murdoch can, but she's off to a great start!
|Posted on February 2, 2017 at 7:55 AM||comments (0)|
By Diana Scharf
When Groundhog Day rolls around each year, I really have only one question on my mind: what time is the Bill Murray movie on? I suppose I also wonder when spring is coming and whether the groundhog will bite the mayor again, but these are really secondary.
Groundhog Day is an awesome movie and should be required viewing for anyone old enough to appreciate it. It tells the story of Phil Connors, played by the ever awesome Bill Murray. Phil is not a nice person. He does just about as little as he can in the world, and is unhappily settled in his mediocrity. His life changes when he goes to Puxatawney PA to cover the Groundhog Day festivities--or rather doesn't change. Phil becomes doomed to repeat February 2, living the same day over and over.
The obvious symbolism here is that Phil, like so many of us, is stuck in a rut. Just as we sometimes do in yoga, the movie explores how to get yourself unstuck.
After making a series of bad choices based on his existing personality, Phil decides to make a change: he decides to better himself. This is where his story starts to turn around.
In yoga, we begin our journey by looking inward. If we consider the seven chakras, or points of energy in the body, we realize that six of them solely concern what's happening in our own bodies. We can actually see Phil improve himself step by step as we watch him open each chakra:
1. He opens his root chakra as he accepts and becomes secure in the knowledge that he has infinite time. This is Phil's foundation in his new reality.
2. He taps into his creative energies by learning new skills such as piano playing and ice sculpting. This demonstrates the sacral chakra opening up.
3. He shows us his solar plexus chakra coming into balance as he begins to make better choices. No more "Thelma and Louise" moments with the groundhog for him! He is done robbing armored cars and bathing with toasters.
4. A balanced heart chakra allows a person to both give and receive love. At first this poses quite a challenge for our boy Phil. But once Phil begins to show kindness to others, he finally begins to earn the love of both the townspeople and his love interest, Rita.
5. He finds his voice by speaking to and engaging with the townspeople. He speaks the truth; he is no longer picking up women by pretending to know them from high school. By the end of the movie he talks to everyone as if they were old friends with an easy rapport. This demonstrates a balanced throat chakra.
6. The "third eye" chakra represents an inner wisdom. The introspective aspect is hard to pinpoint in the movie since it really translates into Phil growing into a better person overall. However, we do see him acquire wisdom as the movie progresses. He lets Rita teach him about the poetry she loves so much, and though we don't see it happen, they call him Dr. Connors by the end of the movie. So we know that this chakra comes into balance as well.
7. The first six chakras serve us inwardly. However, the seventh chakra looks outward: it connects us to something greater than ourselves. It is not just about the self, this is the energy that we put out into the world. We engage this chakra by becoming mindful of what's happening around us and performing acts of kindness. Where is there a need that we can fill?
Once Phil learns this lesson and brings his final chakra into balance, he finally breaks out of his rut. He realizes that the world is not just about him and his desires. He becomes a part of something greater--a community. He becomes mindful of other people's lives and other people's needs. He observes his environment and learns to really notice. He knows when a kid is going to fall from a tree, when a bunch of old ladies will need a tire change, and when someone will choke in a restaurant. And he makes sure that he is always there to help. All of these good deeds make him the most beloved man in Puxatawny, and teach him to be happy.
We learn from Phil that perspective means everything. He is always in the same place with the same people acting out the same situations. Yet he goes from being utterly miserable and unloved to being blissfully happy and beloved. Absolutely nothing has changed except for the way he now views the world.
Yoga teaches us to view the world in a positive way, with an open heart and an open mind. Yogis see every day as a fresh start, a new opportunity to pour our positive energy into the world. I like to believe that is exactly what the final scene of Groundhog Day shows us as Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell walk out into their snow-covered paradise.
So this Groundhog Day, I challenge you to become a better version of yourself. Be kinder, wiser, or more mindful. Learn to play piano. Try that kettle bell class at the gym. Just do something different. You might be surprised where your new journey takes you.
|Posted on January 30, 2017 at 1:10 PM||comments (0)|
It was an ordinary Saturday just like the rest. I was at the gym with my two children having lunch while my husband went home for his turn for "me time." The cafe was filled with parents just like me doing the Saturday routine of feeding their kids, entertaining them and doing their best to tire them out.
I can't remember the conversation I was having with them, but it definitely consisted of "where are we going next?" Followed by "why can't I have more candy?" While I was answering their questions pretty calmly, my head was screaming "OMG....YOU GUYS NEED TO STOOOOP!"
It was then that it happened. A woman by the name of "Alicia" came up to me and said "you are doing such a good job being a mom..I hope I have your patience when I get home."
For a moment I stared are her. Was she judging me? Was she serious? I mean…I just let my 5 year old have pizza and chips for lunch.
It was then that I noted she worked there and I smiled. Then I said to her "thank you so much. I am definitely trying." As we walked out of the gym I had yet another argument about why we need to wear coats in the winter. However something was a little different. I actually WAS calmer and the screaming in my head had stopped. The stressed out pit in my stomach was gone. I then thought about what just happened.
It made me chuckle to think I somehow made this all look easy. Then I realized later that she wasn't thinking that at all. She was supporting me because she knows it's not. I'm not only talking about parenting here.
We all have our issues and problems to deal with. This one act of kindness has opened my mind to the idea that no matter how tough things are for ourselves, if we support others it helps give perspective and the confidence to persevere. So my challenge now is this. If the moment presents itself, take notice and support someone who looks like they are "just muddling through." You never know what kind of difference you can make in their day and perhaps your own.
There were many people in that cafe and I appreciate being the one who stood out. If only for a moment. So thank you Alicia and you are doing a great job too!
|Posted on January 18, 2017 at 2:45 PM||comments (0)|
By Jessica Brown
I’m So Sorry, but I’m Having a Bad Day We’ve all had them. That day that never seems to end. Those days where everyone seems to be happy and going about their day, but you are struggling through every step. Perhaps you are having one right now. You keep telling yourself that you just need to get through the next few hours and bedtime will be the “cure all.” However when bedtime comes you are lying there angry at the clock. Why is it that time keeps moving, but you can’t seem to just move on with it? According to the book “Sitting Still Like a Frog by Eline Snel, “ Our mind is not unlike a sea or an ocean.
Storms, rain showers, or the sun can transform the surface of any expanse of water into a seething mass of terrifying high waves or into a clear, smooth sheet through which you can see the great depths below.” When we work with children to be more “mindful” during their practice, we often ask them to physically draw how they are feeling on a piece of paper as a way to record their personal “weather report.” Since most young children struggle with feelings and don’t have the words to express themselves appropriately, this gives them a medium to do that n a way they understand. However as an adult, I admit sometimes I don’t have the words to express myself either. That’s where this helpful tool comes in handy with grown ups too! While we may not have the time to put it on paper (but if you can its not a bad idea), simply taking yourself out of your day for a moment can help you acknowledge what is going on in your mind. This can be as simple as closing your eyes on the checkout line, carpool line or commute home and asking yourself, “what is my weather report today?”
By taking our own weather report, we are helping ourselves own and accept how we are feeling. As parents we know that validating our children’s feelings, while it may not solve the problem, helps to get to the root of it. So why not do the same with our own feelings. What is going on in MY “atmosphere” that is contributing to this stormy day? It is then that we can accept that right now it is “raining.” I cannot change that it is raining. I you can accept that “it is what it is” and I must make it work to get through this storm. We might then realize that we acted irrationally or in a way we aren’t proud of. Know that it is OK. We don’t judge because we have all been there. Take a few deep breaths, and continue to work through. Like the weather, we simply cannot change our feelings. We can only know that tomorrow it will be different.
|Posted on January 4, 2017 at 7:00 AM||comments (0)|
By Diana Scharf
I'm not the kind of person who wraps myself up in the lives of celebrities. Their lives don't affect mine and it never really made sense to me to get worked up about their comings and goings. (Except of course when Ryan Reynolds and I were both single because hey, you never know, right)? Which is why I've really spent the last couple of days thinking about why I am so completely saddened over the death of Carrie Fisher.
I, of course, will always be grateful to Carrie Fisher for giving us Princess Leia. She showed my nine-year old self that not every princess waits in a tower for a prince to come and kiss her. Sometimes, a princess leads a rebel alliance. Sometimes, a princess disguises herself as a bounty hunter and tries to rescue her prince. And sometimes a princess takes the very chain that imprisons her and uses it to strangle Jabba the Hut. I never looked at a fairytale princess the same way again.
When I look at the way I raise my daughter and the way I write my classes, I realize the profound impact Princess Leia had on my life. I see it in the books I choose for my daughter. While she certainly knows about Snow White and her powers of cooking and housekeeping, we both prefer stories like Shannon Hale and Dean Hale's "The Princess in Black," where the princess keeps her lands safe by battling monsters and sending them back where they belong. We read about Wonder Woman and Super Girl, where strong women defeat nefarious criminals (and sometimes even rescue Batman and Superman in the process).
Now, don't get me wrong. I love princesses. Especially Disney princesses. I've taught many classes about Ariel, Elsa and the like. (Ask Miss Jessica, I am our go-to-girl if you want a princess yoga class)! But I always try to highlight a princess's strength when I include her in one of my classes. How brave and confident Ariel is to venture out into a new world and re-write her destiny. How strong and powerful Elsa is. And when I write a princess into one of my original yoga stories, you can pretty much be sure that she's going to be kicking butt in a Warrior Pose, overcoming some obstacle.
Recently I decided to test out one of my new classes on my five-year old. The class was really based around the 6 warrior poses, but by way of introduction, I decided to have a princess send her warriors off on a quest. Princess Leia would have done it, she was the boss right? But I was so proud of my kid when she asked if the princess could go on the adventure too. DUH! Of course the princess can go on the adventure too, and shame on me for not including her!
I'm sure that, with the world changing as it did, we were bound to see an action-hero princess at some point. Maybe some were already out there when I was nine. But for me, Princess Leia was the first. Seeing a princess acting as both a leader and someone who could also handle herself in battle was both a revelation and an inspiration for nine-year-old me. I like to think that I subconsciously channel that memory as I teach my daughter those values that make her send her own princesses out on adventures.
So thank you Carrie Fisher. You will continue to shape the world-view of budding princesses everywhere. Especially where I am teaching.
|Posted on December 14, 2016 at 7:00 AM||comments (0)|
By, Jessica Brown
|Posted on December 5, 2016 at 7:00 AM||comments (0)|
By, Jessica Brown
While it may be cliche' to say the holidays are stressful, it doesn't diminish the fact that they actually are.
Therefore for the month of December we are introducing or Mindfulness Series where we will share videos, photos and blog posts highlighting how we can all benefit from a little mindfulness in our lives.
CLICK HERE very first video blog to "kick off" the festivities!
|Posted on November 21, 2016 at 6:30 PM||comments (1)|
By, Diana Scharf
I'm hearing a lot of "No Fairs!" these days. They come at me from every direction.
From my kid: "No Fair! My friend has an American Girl doll, I want one!"
From other kids: "No Fair! She lost a tooth. I want to lose a tooth!"
From Facebook: "No Fair! I wanted MY candidate to win the election!"
From the president-elect: "No Fair!" on just about everything else.
And that's not even scratching the surface of things that actually are "No Fair," such as the hatred and violence that's running rampant across the country these days. (I promise, this is not a political post).
Well. None of this is very yogic, not at all. So, like we do in yoga, let's all take a collective deep breath and bring our focus back to what matters. In meditation, we always come back to our breath. But I think we can use this as a metaphor in our daily lives as well.
As we approach Thanksgiving this year, let's stop letting our focus wander towards things that we can't really control (whatever is on the news) or things that don't really matter (who has better stuff than we do), and bring our focus back to what's really important: family, friends, and all of the blessings that we are lucky enough to have in our lives. Thanksgiving is a day to express gratitude for all of our blessings.
Around this time of year, we start asking the kids in our classes what they are thankful for. We do get a few who say they are grateful for their parents or new baby siblings, but the majority of them are grateful for their toys. As is just and proper in the world of 4-year-olds, right? But I always try to make my young students dig just a little deeper: who bought you that toy? Grandma did? You are so lucky that you have a grandma! Where do you keep all of your toys? You are so lucky to have a home that's big enough for all those toys!
It is so difficult, but also so important to teach our kids how to be grateful. Grateful for their mommies and daddies, who love them and make them feel special. Grateful that they live in a house with heat in the winter. And yes, grateful for their toys. I find that you really can't convince a preschooler not to be materialistic, so I think it's better to just embrace that aspect of their personality and remind them how lucky they are to have toys when other kids have nothing. Thanksgiving is a time to appreciate the things that we do have, rather than want for the things that we don't. This is also a very yogic principle.
In yoga we sometimes talk about the principle of "non-hoarding," called Aparigraha in Sanskrit. I have always thought this was the most interesting Yama, or personal discipline that we practice in yoga. Taken literally, it means that we should strive not to be materialistic, that possessions are not as important as the values that we learn (in yoga or in life). As I mention above, teaching this lesson to our children will be an on-going process for most of us as our children grow and mature. (I.e., your tots will not have mastered this concept by this Thursday!)
But in the more figurative sense, Aparigraha means simply "letting go." Letting go of negativity, letting go of grudges, letting go of fear, letting go of really any emotion that does not serve us in a positive way.
This is a lesson that can benefit us all, adults and kids alike. For very young kids it can be as simple as giving them a choice: do they want to stay angry and sulk on the couch, or would they rather move on and play with their cousins whom they don't see very often? (They usually come around, little kids are awesomely resilient). For the rest of us, it's pretty much an age-appropriate variation of that choice. We can choose to put our grudges, anger or fear aside and enjoy this special time that only comes around once a year.
So this Thanksgiving, let's take all of these "No Fairs," strike our best Elsa Pose and just Let It Go. Even if it's just for a day. Without all this negativity weighing us down, we can be free to appreciate all the good in our lives and be truly thankful.
Happy Thanksgiving from Topsy Turvy Yogi!
|Posted on July 18, 2016 at 10:50 AM||comments (0)|
By Diana Scharf
One of the funny things about teaching yoga to really little kids is that I'm always surprised that it doesn't translate into my own practice. For example, one of my instructors does a lot of "Elsa Pose"...but why doesn't she call it call it Elsa Pose? Sometimes it takes me a minute to realize I'm in "grown up yoga." Call it an occupational hazard.
So this morning I went to a class where the theme was "love." (Wait, what? You mean like, "Love is an Open Door?" Love will thaw a frozen heart? Nope! Just plain, straight up love. And yes, Topsy Turvy Yogi did just teach a class on Frozen, why do you ask?). Which got me thinking, could I ever teach such a plain (yet complicated) concept to my little ones, without all the bells and whistles that usually go into their lessons?
In yoga we sometimes talk about "heart opening" poses, which are supposed to leave you open to love. But how does one bring that concept to three-year olds, who, as my mother once put it, are already "sweet little bundles of love?" Their hearts are naturally wide open, ready to accept love. The answer, I've decided, is to focus on gratitude. Gratitude for the people we love.
Ironically, while three-year olds are super open to love, they are also completely self-centered. Ask anyone who has ever given a present to a three-year old. Do they say thank you for the Elsa doll? No! (At least not without prompting). They just ask for Anna and Olaf too! So gratitude is just not a natural concept to them.
Luckily, in yoga (as in life) there are many opportunities to express gratitude. And as a teacher, it's my job to point them out. I was recently talking to my three-year olds before our class began. The conversation, started completely randomly (as is usually the case at this age), went something like this:
Kid 1: "I have a mommy!"
Kid 2: "I have a mommy and a daddy!"
Kid 3: "I have a mommy and a daddy and a grandma!"
Kid 1 (not to be outdone): "I have a mommy and a daddy and 2 grandmas and 2 grandpas and a baby brother!"
I tried not laugh as they each one-upped each other, listing their entire family trees. (I seriously love they way the three-year old mind works!)
First I have to show them how impressive I think this all is. But then I tell them, "you are so lucky to have all those people in your life who love you and keep you safe! Do you feel lucky?" They all nod and smile in agreement. Then I ask them if they feel special, knowing that they have all this love in their life. More nods and smiles, and even a few "yeahs!" "And do you hug them and let them know that you love them? And that you are glad you have them? That must make them feel so happy!"
So help your children find ways to be grateful. They will become better people for it. Gratitude is so much more than just saying thank you. Be grateful that you had a fun day at camp. Be grateful that mommy worked hard to make you a yummy dinner. Be grateful for people who make you laugh. Be grateful for love.
Among many other things, I am grateful that my teacher finally let me come out of Elsa Pose this morning...felt like I'd been stuck there forever! Flowing into Olaf Pose...what do you mean that's not what we call it?
|Posted on May 26, 2016 at 7:20 AM||comments (0)|
By Jessica Brown
One of the biggest misconceptions about yoga is that props are considered using a "crutch," and that crutches are a bad thing. No one knows better than children that this is further from the truth.
Let me take a few steps back. A year ago I broke my knee. Before I knew it, I was relying on crutches to get from point A to B. As a mom this was even more difficult because I had to #1 - accept my situation, #2 - accept help from others and #3 - make the best out of the next two months laid up on the couch.
Yoga played an instrumental part in getting through this time because while I knew how forgetful the body can be, I also knew that if I focused on "being in that moment" the rest would fall into place. As it did.
The hardest thing to adapt to was being on crutches. Which makes sense because the name alone already sets off a negative energy. Which is why my AMAZING caregiver re named them my "walking sticks" because in reality that's all they really were.
My children learned very quickly that taking them away from me was the easiest way to get candy because without them I could not go very far. That's not exactly how props work for children in their yoga journey, but I give them "props" for figuring that out.
In yoga, props are essentially the "walking sticks" that get us from point A to B as we develop our practice. They help us visualize what our body is doing and what needs to be done to get the final result. Children especially are visual learners since they communicate with the world through their play and imagination.
To encourage proper breathing exercises, I often use props so the children can "see" their breath and where it is coming from.
One of my favorite props is the Hoberman Sphere
Not only is it fun to play with, but also it can easily simulate their little bellies expanding and contracting. Often I hold it up to my belly to demonstrate and they think its SO FUNNY that I have a belly outside my belly!
For children who are a bit older, I like to use bubbles to teach them how to control their breath. Making bubbles smaller and bigger is a developmental milestone for them. To make it more challenging, we add in a balancing pose like tree pose or airplane pose. They get very wobbly so we always make sure a grown up is around to assist. This allows them to visualize what it means to control a breath and use that to work on a challenge whether that be in a yoga pose or simply calming themselves down after a tantrum.
Literally anything in your home can be used as a prop. In the picture below my daughter used a Wisconsin cheese hat in "mouse pose" to support her head. She was able to stay in the pose much longer and of course had fun doing it.
So today I am giving props to using props, as well as never to see asking for help as a "crutch". Asking for help allowed me to heal and ultimately how Topsy Turvy Yogi was born (another blog for another day!)
At Topsy Turvy yogi we see props as walking sticks towards positive development!