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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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. 😉

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!

Hi, My Name is Lily…

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This is Lily. She is 63 years old. She’s a black belt in Jiu Jitsu, Judo, and her cooking will leave you begging for an invitation to her next dinner party.

What I admire most about Lily is that she is always learning. It is her constant inquiry into how to live better that I think keeps her young in mind and heart.

63 isn’t very old. But if you saw some of the takedowns and chokes that she taught me today… you would wonder what else she puts in her Wheaties.

P.S. This picture is of Lily learning how to improve her Vrksasana.