Growing Gorillas One Fight at a Time

We posted this article (“Letting Children Win Is Always A Losing Strategy”) on the Growing Gorillas Facebook page about how important competition is for children. I encourage you to read it and think about it. Really. Think about it.

Think about how competition has helped you to become who you are. Think about those times when you failed or lost. What happened before, what happened during, what happened after. Who was there with you and what did they say?

Every match, every game, every competition is practice in living.

b16a4638

And if you are a parent, ask yourself, “What am I doing to prepare my child for life?”

If you’re an adult, ask yourself who you have to thank or what experiences do you have to thank for your ability to show up for life, work hard, struggle, win, lose, win again, lose again, and show up again.

Listen. I don’t brag about our Growing Gorillas Kids Program nearly enough. But THIS is EXACTLY what we do. We teach kids to solve problems. We teach kids to compete. We teach kids to win. We teach kids to lose. But most of all we teach them to face life as it is handed to them.

No one is ever guaranteed a fair fight. No one. Ever.

img_1851

Sometimes you win because you’re better, faster, smarter. Sometimes you lose because they are. Sometimes winners lose and losers win because the “system” is wrong. But then what? What will you take from that? Where will you go? Will you withdraw and let that experience define you? Will you move on? How?

If by adulthood, our kids haven’t yet learned and experienced failure, success, hard work, or found their talents, then we have work to do. If as adults, our kids make excuses, complain about the unfairness of the world, or think that any one moment defines them completely and forever, then I know we have to go back to the drawing board and adjust what and how we teach children.

My wish is for each of us to see ourselves for who we are, strengths and weaknesses. My wish is for us to accept the challenges set in front of us. My wish is for us to have the training, confidence, and experience to ask ourselves, “What is the next right move?” And then, my wish is for us to have a team, a tribe, a family, a friend to cheer us on as we touch hands and go.

fullsizeoutput_9bc

I realize that some of you don’t know what Growing Gorillas is… hold onto your hats! My husband and I created a curriculum to teach jiu jitsu to children.

Wait – that doesn’t really explain it fully. We created a curriculum, using #jiujitsu to help children learn the basics of living. They learn through play, they learn through competition, they learn through the experience of being part of a a tribe, guided by coaches, supported by parents, and cheered on and pushed by teammates.

We incorporated what we knew and learned from teaching and raising our own children. We’ve since expanded the program and will be releasing a #kidsyoga curriculum this year.

The underlying thread of success is that we teach children how to be better versions of themselves.

Do you understand what we did? We created a curriculum for PARENTING! If only someone had given this to me when we took home Teddy from the hospital 17 years ago. Oh the grey hairs that would have never been!

Let me put it this way. When my kids were born, I felt an overwhelming panic that I had NO IDEA WHAT TO DO! I wanted them to grow up to be happy, healthy, and productive members of society. I wanted them to laugh, play, and find something in life to throw themselves into. I wanted them to learn how to love, how to be a friend, how to have a conversation, and how to be a good neighbor. Everyone wants that for their kids, right?

img_1782

Well, here’s the clincher. We really didn’t know how to do any of that stuff ourselves. In fact, neither Travis or I really knew what we were doing at all. We learned our life lessons through our practices in jiu jitsu and yoga. What we learned, we put into a curriculum for kids. That was our next move.

Life is short and it is what it is. The only thing we have control over is our own next move. What is your next move?

I love you all. Keep the fire burning. We have work to do.

Follow Growing Gorillas on Facebook.

img_1744-2

It’s On! YoMo 2016

img_0218This month, we are celebrating our lives with a little more YOGA! At SBG, we encourage everyone to practice a little yoga everyday. We motivate and encourage with sequences, reflections, jokes, demonstrations, parties, and lots of cheerleading.

I sent this reflection out to our students this week. And I figured that some of you would like to enjoy it, too! Cheers to you and your practice!


The second sutra of Patanjali’s treatise on yoga is succinct. Yogah cittavrtti nirodhah. Yoga is the cessation of the fluctuations of consciousness. In the practice of forward bends, we are taught to fold “inward” as we fold forward. We are told that if we practice in this way, we have an opportunity to look within and practice svadhyaya, or self-study. This is how we find the peace and harmony of a quiet mind, we are told.

But that practice of looking within can create a dilemma of sorts. Set aside the common pains of folding forward (holy hamstrings!), the seemingly simple act of studying ourselves can be difficult. The mind wanders. The flow of thought, the breath, the emotions… there’s just so much commotion! We remain steadfast and search for some sense of peace, quiet. (That’s what they say we are supposed to find, right?). And still, how on earth can we find peace when our hamstrings and hips are SCREAMING…?

All jokes aside. This is the practice. This in fact is what it’s all about.

“But everything great is just as difficult to realize as it is rare to find.” – Ethics, Spinoza

Often people come to yoga in the pursuit of happiness. They may walk through the door and ask for help with their low back pain or to limber up to better play their sport. But ultimately, it comes down to people looking for more peace within themselves. And their exploration can easily turn into a fight. Like the early explorers who were so quickly turned into conquerors, fighting instead of listening and looking. As Spinoza’s wisdom reminds us, this balance is often easier said than done and all the more important.

The crux of the physical asana practice is not unlike this balance that we seek within our minds. Abhyasa (Practice) and Vairagya (Non-attachment) are the two foundational principles of yoga. Balancing these two in life and on the mat in asana practice is a key to finding the subtler quietness of the mind.

fullsizeoutput_70fSpecifically, Abhyasa means cultivating the actions, speech, and thoughts to lead ourselves in a positive direction, rather than following the path toward the negative. Vairagya is the practice of letting go of the habits, persuasions, and colorings of the mind that lead us away from the positive direction. Practice points you toward the finish line, while non-attachment keeps you playing the game instead of turning on the TV.

As you fold inward during your practice, accept the challenge. Look inward, dig deep, and breathe. This is you. This is yoga. You’re okay. In fact, you’re perfect. We just have some work to do. 😉

Oh Well.

Life has been difficult lately. It’s like my heart is stuck in the mud and no amount of pulling and heaving could bring it to the light of day. The reading, writing, practices, conversations, and bubble baths that usually inspire me haven’t worked to change it. I haven’t been able to figure out why the funk laid so heavy on me. There was no crisis, no problem to solve, no dilemma to massage into passage. Nothing has really changed this month from last month.

I’m a generally happy person, so this moody weight is not familiar. But as much as I wanted to know Why and What, I decided to just let it be. “This, too, shall pass,” I kept telling myself.

Mostly, I decided to let it be because even the thought of trying to figure it out was just too much. Even thinking has been slow and painful.

It’s not fatigue because that would imply that I’ve overdone or worked hard – whether physical, mental, emotional. Definitely not tired.

It’s not depression. My life is quite perfect. I have stresses, anxieties, and things I wish were different. But I am grateful for the life that I’ve created.

I don’t think it’s seasonal. I love autumn! The leaves, the colors, the excitement over pumpkin spice lattes and sweaters. I love it all!

I honestly don’t know what’s been going on. There’s really only one way to describe it.

Bleh.

That’s it.

Well, I would add a BIG, HEAVY <sigh> to the end of that Bleh.

Bleh… <sigh>…

So, all month I’ve just been sighing. A few tears here and there. Plenty of laughter. But, mainly just… Bleh… and <sigh>.

Then I moved on to the next task, the next class, the next load of dishes.

sigh-heavy-and-carry-on-jpg

Somewhere mid-month. I decided that as terrible as it seemed that I was so… Bleh… it didn’t really matter. As important as my mood, my energy, my happiness FEELS… it’s not really that big of a deal. Regardless of the experience I am having, the planet would continue to turn on its axis, the sun would rise and set, and the local supermarket would have something new on sale this week.

So, I unloaded the dishes, packed lunches, analyzed numbers, studied and prepared for classes, and showed up for life. I didn’t want to. I wanted to wallow in my funk. I wanted to listen to The Smiths and write about how not-happy I was. (Just kidding… I hate The Smiths! They’re so depressing…!)

You get the point.

My mood was prime for me to withdraw from my family, my friends, my responsibilities, my life. But I decided instead to just shift into autopilot and carry on.

Don’t be confused. There was no bravado involved. It was a pathetic campaign to the outside observer. I just simply forced one foot in front of the other. It was grueling some days to roll out of bed. So many heavy sighs!

But whatever. And… Bleh.

I did it… Bleh.

And then, guess what happened.

I woke up this morning, pressed the snooze three times and dragged my ass out of bed (again). I sighed (again) and kissed my daughter good morning. I poured a cup of coffee and sat down to write and sighed (again). The words were slow from my pen (again). I sighed (again). And I continued to write (again). I didn’t really write about anything in particular this morning. I just wiped the dust from my brain and yawned.

But then, as I shut my notebook, it happened. The heaviness began to lift. Every so quietly, I could feel it easing up and a familiar lightness replacing what had been weighting me down.

I’ll be honest. I have NO IDEA what’s happening right now. Am I happy? Am I sad? Am I mournful? Anxious? I don’t know why I felt so Bleh, or what this new color of heart is all about. I don’t know if I should welcome the experience of the last month or run for the hills if it happens again. Likewise, part of me is a little suspicious about this strange feeling of lightness that I’m currently experiencing. What if it’s fake! What if it goes away again?

Oh well.

Does it really matter? No.

Oh well.

Yes. The big headline for today is that my Bleh has been replaced by Oh Well.

And that’s about as inspiring as a bowl of over-cooked spinach.

Oh well.

What Are You Waiting For?

“How do you do it all?”

That is the number one question that people ask me. Hands down. I usually downplay my response. “Oh, you know. I just kinda put one foot in front of the other.” Or sometimes, I turn the question back on them, “I didn’t realize I had a choice? How could I not do it all?” All of the time, my first guttural, instinctive response is a big “Ha!” But seriously, what does that question even mean!??!

The truth is that the question most people are really asking is, “Why do you do so much?”

familyiseverythingMy four children who are now teenagers were born in the span of 3 ½ years. My husband and I are entrepreneurs. We own several businesses and a handful of residential and commercial properties. I am a dedicated student and teacher of yoga. I train in jiu jitsu and exercise regularly. I am an amazing cook and diligent housekeeper. I don’t like dirty toilets or unkept yards. I have a very large, amazing family that I keep in close touch with. I have a very involved social life and a travel schedule that will make your head spin. I read voraciously and write everyday.
.
And I’m always looking for a new project.

Why?

Because I can. Because I want to. Because I’m called by a whisper that sometimes yells loudly in my head. Because everyday I engage with the people, activities, yoga poses, and ideas that tickle my interest – AND especially those that terrify me – is a day that I learn more about who I really am.

IMG_2539

Everyday I am challenged by a problem, time schedule, financial quandary, or teenage hormone-fueled drama is a day that I inch closer to the Real Essence of Me.

In my opinion, we don’t get better with the typical challenges of life. We get closer to our true nature. And every challenge, problem, weakness, shortcoming is just a speedbump or a crack in the road. Some of them take a little more thinking, a little more effort to traverse. But at the end of the day, there’s no choice. Keep going. Acknowledge your challenges. Use your strengths. Be bold. Keep going. Even better – bring it on!

So what’s my response to that initial question? How do I do it all? My response is a question.

What are YOU waiting for?

IMG_0145

Yoga in Paradise, Anyone?

What are you doing in the new year? Join Kisa for a winter escape from January 25-31, 2016 and start your year with a fresh perspective in the lush practice space of Selva Armonia Retreat Center in Uvita, Costa Rica!

Explore the Practice and Possibilities of Yoga during this 6-day exotic retreat. Dig deep, explore, befriend, and connect to the true nature of yourself with daily asana, practical philosophy, and pranayama teachings. Outside of practice, take time to enjoy the natural and relaxing ambiance of the area.selva

Yoga is a practical practice – accessible by everyone and laden with possibilities to explore and discover the true nature of our selves. What possibilities will you find with your practice?

WHAT TO EXPECT:  A yoga practice that is based on a desire to understand and befriend, rather than assume or achieve is a powerful tool for self-enquiry. When we step on our mats ready to embrace vulnerability, explore the discipline and detachment of practice, and passionately pursue the truth of who we are, we are practicing yoga. With practice, possibilities are revealed.

This retreat is open to those with a sincere curiosity and a desire to know more about themselves and the possibilities that are revealed with a dedicated practice.

Kisa uses a playful, encouraging approach to explore movement, mind and the challenges presented when we look deeper into ourselves. During the week, we will meet with new poses, examine familiar poses, and see what possibilities unfold with the practice.

RETREAT INCLUDES:  Round-trip airport ground transportation (SJO to Selve), 6 nights of luxury accommodations, full service vegan cuisine (all meals provided throughout retreat), twice daily yoga/pranayama/meditation practices, and more!

PRICING:  $1700 after January 1, 2016 ($1550 Early Bird pricing) *Does not include airfare.

TO REGISTER: Pay Online, Call 406-752-7244, or Email kisa@theyogaroomofmontana.com

Paradise, here we come!

Why Bother?

I spent the last week with a room full of wide-eyed, eager yoga students under the direction and discrimination of legendary Iyengar Yoga teacher Manouso Manos.

Wow.

I’ve heard the stories and had an idea of what to expect. But nothing could have prepared me for the experience of this intensive. Every pose, every correction, every adjustment, every smack on the ass – the impressions he created on the physical surface of my practice were so poignant and perfect.

The practice that I brought back was changed dramatically from what I was doing before. Movements are more precise. Actions are more penetrating. My seated posture is more upright. My hips are getting better about staying in their sockets. I’m learning to straighten the leg without locking the knee. You could say that I’m learning to cultivate more skillful action.

Skillful action.

That seems worthy enough, right? But I titled this post, “Why Bother?” for a reason.

My family is lovely, really. But when I tell them about spending 35 hours doing yoga for a week in San Francisco, they say, “Oh, that’s nice” with their heads slightly tilted and brows furrowed in a way that only slightly veils their questioning of my sanity. I know what they really mean is, “Why?”

Can you imagine what they would say if I shared with them the excitement of how I learned to sharpen my tailbone in Dwi Pada Viparita Dandasana? Ha!

They would say… Why Bother?

Manouso reminded us all that according to the Gita – which is the earliest mention of the practice – yoga is skillful action. We can practice the skillful action in our asana practice. We can skillfully navigate daily life. Ultimately, it’s the skillful action that will lead us down the path towards what we seek.

So, what is it that we seek?

Ultimately, yoga is a personal practice. Whatever it is that you seek to get from it, you should make sure that you are getting it. Or at least make sure you are getting closer.

I practice yoga for physical reasons. Manouso put it poetically and succinctly when he said that our physical practice is “for full range of motion and strength throughout.”

I also practice yoga to get closer to that quietness and equanimity whereby my skillful actions produce no pain or pleasure, no comfort or discomfort. I seek what we understand to be enlightenment. It begins in the physical body and (hopefully) penetrates deeply to the core of my being.

That’s why I bother.