This week’s blog is a special request topic: yoga. My relationship with yoga goes back 13 years to my freshman year at NYU. As an acting student at Tisch, I was required to take a movement class as part of my acting studio. My luck of the draw in the Meisner studio? Yoga.
At the time the connection between the two seemed sketchy at best. In retrospect, there is one fundamental value that links them both without question. Both the Meisner acting technique and yoga require that the participant free themselves from the confines of their own head and truly exist in the moment.
As a heady girl by nature, this was not an easy task in either field of study. I couldn’t act out against the acting part, so I passively resented the yoga part. I had been a dancer up to that point and yoga fought against so much of what I had been taught in years of ballet—turned in, Buddha belly, and no judgments. Not really my thing. On the flip side, my flexibility played to my advantage (my lotus has always been lovely).
It took me a year to let go of my adolescent stubbornness and give in to the experience. I regret now that I was so reluctant because my instructor was an incredible woman. I have never seen anyone so centered, calm, and blissful. She owned a private studio which occasionally played host to guest teachers like Rodney Ye.
The downside of Blissful Barbara is that she unknowingly made me a yoga snob. Barbara had studied yoga for years and had a deep understanding of not only the postures, the philosophy at the core of the practice. This was around the time that Madonna came out with Ray of Light and suddenly yoga became trendy. People were getting certified who had only studied yoga for a number of months. I later read an article that talked about the rise in yoga related injuries do to these fair-weather yogis.
This has made me very wary of yoga teachers and I have only found a handful worth my time. In the present day, my relationship with yoga has shifted. I do not have the time to practice the deep, more complex poses that I once loved (my Bridge pose has gone to hell). Rather I tend to do very simple poses to allow my mind to clear and become unencumbered.
My other primary practice of yoga is with my children. With the books of Helen Garabedian as my guide, I do yoga with my 7-month old and my 4-year old. Sometimes I practice with them separately, sometimes we do things together. They both love the time and get excited when I get the mats out. It’s a great way for us to interact, especially in the winter. I remember Blissful Barbara talking about how children make the best yogis because so much of their lives are lived in the moment. They have not learned the faults of their parents: judgment, doubt, fear. Garabedian has a great idea that she reminds you to say to your baby: You are the perfect baby for me and I am the perfect Mommy for you. I have to remind myself of this sometimes when I am cracking under the pressure of being everything and nothing to everyone all at once.
By the way, Liliana does a wicked good Tree and Alexander may be doing Downward Facing Dog before he can crawl.
For those interested, check out www.itsybitsyyoga.com. There is a link to classes offered across the country. If you are like me and live in the middle of nowhere, I recommend her books Itsy Bitsy Yoga and Itsy Bitsy Yoga for Toddlers and Preschoolers.