Yoga is... presence, contentment, breath, awareness, peace, acceptance, intention, connection and sacred. Yoga is to yoke, to join, to unite. My practice of yoga is not limited to asana, study or even meditation. It’s something I practice in all I do. Even though being a stay at home mom of 2 means I’m barely teaching or practicing in group classes I find I’m teaching and practicing in every moment of my life with my girls. I never thought I’d be nursing for almost 5 years straight much less a 2 & 1/2 year old. There are times admittedly that I feel like I’m going to crawl out of my skin and want ‘my body back!!!’ and then I remember that we are not separate, Cosette and I. We are one. We are the same energy. We are nurturing. We are comforting. We are healing. When I surrender to this oneness I actually feel lighter. ‘My’ body created this magical being and my body was created for her. I don’t really have people in my close circle who ask about nursing Cosette at this age but I suppose sharing in a blog will open me up to criticism or just question. My answer to all questions are the same. This is my yoga. This is my practice. This is the one of many challenges and gifts of motherhood.This is not a political breastfeeding article or anything. It’s not even a breastfeeding article at all. I’m just sharing motherhood through the lens of yoga or yoga through the lens of motherhood. They are, of course, one in the same.

 

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As I write on this topic I am filled with emotions. This entry was inspired by a Facebook post looking for motivation to practice more yoga ‘at home alone’.  I feel so passionate about this subject because my home practice is essential to my physical health, my mental health, really just my general quality of life.

I’m a stay at home, homeschooling mom of a 3 year old and almost 5 year old. Even if that’s something you cannot relate to, I’m sure you relate to some of these challenges: can’t get to a class, feeling like there’s never enough time, struggling to balance responsibilities with self care, aging, knowing what you need to do but doing the opposite, making excuses, procrastination, low energy, scattered energy, impatience, fill in the blank. All of these struggles are dramatically lessened when I prioritize my yoga home practice, when I carve out the time (Nights like tonight I only had 20 minutes. I rarely practice more than 45.), create a space (no matter how small), disconnect in order to deeply connect.

 

I think the idea of creating a home practice can be intimidating. Maybe you have a 90 minute class you go to and think you have to emulate that. Perhaps you truly feel like you do not have the time.  That was a huge block for me. My youngest wakes me up insanely early so setting an alarm to practice before my day ‘starts’ is absurd and at night I just want to zone out and watch something mindless. Sometimes I do but the majority of the time I unroll that mat. In the beginning carve out 10 minutes. It’s likely you won’t want to stop at 10, but knowing that’s all you ‘have’ to do in a wonderful way to create a routine.

 

Sometimes I create a playlist. Often this is the only quiet time I have all day so silence in preferred. I set up modestly with just my mat and blanket in my girls’ schoolroom and honestly that’s enough. If you are someone who gathers inspiration from symbols, stones, scents, or plants and have the space, it may provide an easier transition into your practice time.

 

Even though my movement practice (mostly yoga but also some fitness and dance) is organic at this point I began by using my home practice principle of 3. What do I need? What I want? What am I avoiding? Try to let the first thing that comes to mind be ok. Resist overthinking. (For example: I need to stretch my shoulders.  I want to move and build heat from the inside. I am avoiding stillness, particularly holding standing balancing postures. If I had 10ish minutes I would warm up my shoulders and practice seated cow face arms and eagle arms, then I’d move through a strong and mindful sun salute variation, lastly I’d hold eagle and if time dancer. ) The answers are constantly changing for me but sometimes if something is working for me I will continue with those answers and let the practice evolve.  If my energy is depleted and a restorative practice makes sense, welcome that.

 

I’ve written about this before but I feel like acceptance is the key to most things. My home practice tonight was interrupted so many times but I kept coming back to it and it was shorter that I intended and certainly less focused I know without a doubt I’m better for those 20 minutes on my mat.

 

At this point in my life, my breath work and meditation practice is separate. I use the breath work and meditation to settle before bed but that practice can be part of your home practice, used to start the day, or peppered throughout. I will expand on meditation in another entry.

 

Why add a home practice into your life? By committing to 20 minutes of self reflection, dropping into my physical body, meeting myself on the mat exactly where I’m at (there’s no hiding from myself) I feel improved health, clarity, intuition, connection, and value to my days. I 100% have my moments where I loose it for sure but because I’ve practiced, I see it so clearly and can reset. My home practice brings me back to myself and not just what I do all day long.  That is why I am so passionate about a home yoga practice, feel everyone is capable or creating one, and can benefit from it as I do.

 

Please feel free to comment with any questions!

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Have you tried everything to get your little one to ‘sleep through the night’? Have you exhausted (pun intended) the sleep training methods? Is your sweet child an early riser or a night owl or waking several times a night? Have you found glimpses of success but then you experience a wonder week or one of it seems like countless sleep regressions or they get a cold or teeth start coming (why are there so many teeth?!?!)? Have you had several weeks of a sleeping baby or toddler or child and then go on a vacation and have to start all over?

Tired parents: I have 3 steps that will bring you more control, more peace, and yes even more rest. Like any training you will need to be consistent. Stay focused and have patience with yourself. Enlisting other family members in this training will be beneficial. What makes this training different than all others? The intention is to train YOU, not your child!

Step One (this is everything):

Acceptance

My youngest daughter woke in the 4am hour to start the day for the first 2 years of her life. I tried numerous training methods and spoke with sleep coaches (all valuable conversations) but truth be told my entire family, including myself, are early risers. Every time in exhaustion I’d express frustration about Cosette’s early start to the day, not only would a relative chime in that they still wake before the sun but my husband would remind me that I woke that early to teach private yoga when we were dating in NYC. Fighting nature will only result in irritation, resistance, and often anger. That negative energy will likely be directed at your child and ultimately back to you. I cannot express the guilt I felt after getting so exasperated at Cosette for not being able to go back to sleep after waking at 4 something. It took me quite a while to discover the need for Acceptance but once I did it was key. Acceptance means no more fighting. Acceptance is making peace with what is. Acceptance is letting go of your idea of what ‘should be’ or desire to make things different than they are. Acceptance, for me, was freedom. It allowed me to reduce negativity and actually begin to enjoy the precious time I had with just my youngest while everyone else slept. You still may be thinking that 4 something am is an unacceptable waking hour but that was her waking hour and the rest of the day adjusted accordingly. Early to rise, early to bed. That is my second daughter. It’s honestly my first as well but just not as extreme. Some mornings were harder than others to reside in the place of acceptance and that was mainly because of how much or little sleep I got. SLEEP TRAINING TIP: Whether you want to or not, if you know you have an early riser or a frequent waker get yourself to sleep earlier. Just do it. You may have a to do list a mile long, want to unwind or anything at but all I guarantee if you use that time to sleep you will be a better person the next time you wake. That is something I still struggle to accept. Will you do this step perfectly? Not at all. Do I do this step perfectly? No way. But practicing Acceptance has changed my life and my relationship with my family. It is a practice.

Step Two

Awareness

This step is actually a tool. Awareness is presence. Can you be the present for the good, the bad, the ugly and the sleep protesting? Whether it is bedtime or struggling to get your little one back down after a waking, I practice acceptance and then I shift focus to the tool of awareness. One exercise I do to strengthen presence is to name what is going on in the present. Cosette does not want to go to sleep. She is upset. She is smart enough to attempt to delay bedtime with all sorts of antics. She is sort of funny but she is getting more tired. She is getting restless and now it’s hard for her to settle. I am getting frustrated and unsettled. My breathing is short and labored. Her breathing is heavy and erratic. She is in bed. She is beautiful. I feel sad she struggles with bedtime. I feel upset I cannot help. I feel anxious she is not sleeping yet. She seems to feel my upset and is getting upset herself. I pause. I slow down my breath. Breathe in. Breathe out. Repeat. I am settling. More minutes later than I want to count, she is settling. I stay aware in those minutes. I see my daughter finding peace. She has a little smile and her eyes are closed. She is still awake but peaceful. This has transformed bedtime for our family. The time it takes for ‘bedtime’ is still the same but the energy is so different with the practice of Awareness.

Step Three

Grace

This step is as unique as you are. Whether you have already moved through the other steps or you are in what feels like a trapped, tired and maddening place you can reach for this step. Grace can be gratitude. Grace can be prayer. Grace can be meditation. Whatever personal or spiritual practice you have take time to connect to it. Though sleep seems to be such a focus of newborn, infant, baby, toddler and childhood there’s so much to be thankful for. Start listing the things you are grateful for. Use this time for prayer or meditation or however you connect to self or spirit. This time when you are such an integral part of their physical survival like nourishing them, educating them, and helping them get good rest and sleep is so short. Living with Grace will open you to receive positive energy and allow you to give positive energy as well.

You can still try all of the sleep training methods, buy sound machines, black out curtains, salt lamps, oils and more… I’ve done it all and still try things that I hear help others but add these 3 steps and sleep time will improve. I invite you to apply these practices into other areas of your life as well.

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Have you always wanted to self publish a children's book? Do you have that story on paper (computer) or in your head but aren't sure what to do next. Do you have so many ideas you want to share? I am still on my self publishing journey but many people have reached out wondering about the creation of my two children's books about yoga, mindfulness, and positive affirmations. My intention is getting these books to as many families as possible in order to share what has helped myself and my family so much.

I did some things right and made some mistakes. 

The content for both books came easily. My entire world used to be yoga and now it is being a stay at home mama so the marriage of those two passions created not only the poetry of My Little Light: my first postures and the narrative in I Am Light: postures and affirmations but many more stories that still live in my head. The Sun Salutation poem was literally inspired by our preschool co-op leader Sarah asking if I’d be interested in sharing some kid’s yoga and I wanted a way to engage them in a sun salutation. The entire story of I Am Light was developed during a 7-week series of kids’ classes I taught at the Mandel Public Library of West Palm Beach

I got SO lucky with my illustrators. Nova Stanley is only 13 years old and talented beyond belief. Her mother Cynthia, who I went to college with years ago, shared her work on Facebook and I felt she would be perfect for the poems. She was. Valerie Willis Tower who illustrated I Am Light is someone I’ve known for a decade through yoga and have always been a fan of hers. I could not believe she had availability when the second book was finished. My amazing husband, Shaun did the layout (amongst other things like walking me through Excel spreadsheets to get organized with my orders and account for ALL costs) for the first and Valerie for the second. I am fortunate to have a brilliant community who helped me with the edits. I reach out to mom friends, a mom/poet, a mom/professional writer/grammar genius and mom/yogis. They were my editors and were essential to this process.

I filed my copyrights through copyright.gov, my ISBNs and barcodes through bowker.com and since mine was a board book I selected Pint Size Productions a US based board book printer. This is a very unique type of book. As far as I know they are the only US based company and that was important to me. If they are not the only they are certainly the best and their prices are actually competitive with overseas. There are incredible Facebook self-publishing communities that can point you in the right direction whether you want to print and have inventory as I did or print on demand. Author Marketing Community for Women- the Book Babes moderated by Marie Ann Seaton and Self Publishing Support Group moderated by Melinda Tipton Martin are the groups that I were most helpful. I also found Dependent Media who created and maintains the BEST website ever.

Where I got stuck both times was that crowd-funding allowed me to print 1020 books which made my per book cost too high to work with major retailers who wanted 50/50 split. I got into 26 retail locations (mostly yoga studios, a cafe, a couple of boutiques, and 2 independent books shops) just by walking in or calling or being connected through friends. They were all open to 70/30. I feel honored that they were open to selling the book though they were not making a huge profit. There was interest from bookshops and toy stores but if I agreed to their cut I'd loose money. So that's where I am stuck in this process. If I could afford to print twice the amount I'm sure I could get the books on more shelves. I've also done ok selling from my website but if I had more funds I would hire someone with more experience with that. Marketing is definitely the most challenging so if you have someone with those talents you are much further along than myself. My husband has given me a 50 state challenge where I send a copy of I Am Light with a cover letter and press kit to a fitting retailer in 50 states. I am taking that challenge. This book will not be profitable because of marketing expenses but I keep learning and writing and creating and am not in the red.

Funding my books: There are several crowd funding platforms where you create incentives for donations. Gofundme.com/iamlightchildrensyogabook is mine. You can also use it as a platform to accept preorders. The transfer the funds into your bank account daily. They take a small percentage of donations. I have tried Indigogo and GoFundMe and have had correspondence with Kickstarter and by far Gofundme has superior customer service and the platform is user friendly. That said Kickstarter may have a better reputation of supporting artistic endeavors as Gofundme is also used for other types of fundraising endeavors. I didn't really care about that perception as most of your donations come from your circle and your circle's circle. I think my first campaign was more successful than the first for 2 main reasons that my friend Reggie helped me see. The first is that crowd funding is less about your book and more about people supporting you and being excited about what you're doing. It’s a little tough to get that excitement the second time around. The second and probably biggest problem I faced second time around was timing. The first time around I ran my crowd funding mid September through October with a mid November ship date. Only the people who pre-ordered the book through my fundraising site would get the book in time for the holidays. That was a pretty big incentive. A huge mistake I made this time was doing my crowd funding August/Sept which is back to school time when parents have just spent hundreds of dollars and too early to be really thinking of the holidays. 

I did all shipping. I am a seller on Amazon which means if you search Amazon you can buy my book but I still do all of the shipping. I do not get many unique orders from Amazon.com because I do not rank high in my category. I also struggled to get reviews (though I am beyond grateful for the ones I have). I have had FB messages and personal notes but it’s challenging to get written reviews. 

SOME EXCITING ACCOMPLISHMENTS

 My Little Light: my first postures

 sold out 1020 books in one year

sold in 25 retail locations most with reorders

21 libraries

featured at April is for Authors aprilisforauthors.org

featured on Elena Brower's newsletter for teach.yoga 

8 school/library readings

donated copies to hospitals and families in need

there are copies in Canada, Israel, Singapore, England, and Sweden

 

I Am Light: posture and affirmations

featured at BAM a festival of books and music https://www.palmbeachschools.org/employees/2018/02/20/bam-a-festival-of-books-and-music-downtown-west-palm-beach-march-3-2018-a-free-family-event/

people from 19 different states received copies of the book through their preorders

presented for 150 3rd grade students at Barton Elementary School Lake Worth, FL

presented at Pottery Barn Kids https://www.potterybarnkids.com/

17 libraries

 

Please, if I didn't answer your questions, comment and I will answer or do my best to find you an answer. 

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