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Lost in Transition

I am struggling so hard with this parenting thing right now. Bear Shark is fully in his 3’s, and other parents who have gone through the 3’s know that every day is a battle that tries to destroy our will to live.

We went through some tough 3’s with the Big Kid. The range of emotions that happens within a 2-minute time span is extreme. The highest of highs and the lowest of lows. I remember there being so many tears (mine out of exhaustion and frustration, his out of… I dunno… his sandwich was cut wrong???). But I also remember how my husband took on a bigger role in parenting because I was tending to Bear Shark as a baby. He took the hard blows while I cuddled and nursed. I was able to hide from the 3’s.

There’s no hiding now. And Bear Shark is a completely different person than his brother in personality, energy level and demeanor. He is brash and explosive, expressive and experimental, loud and so very physical. He’s a climber and a smasher, a screamer and a stubborn head. I have a feeling he gets this more from me than my husband (although I like to think I was not nearly as destructive as a kid). And this is perhaps why I’m struggling. We are cut from the same cloth and butting heads repeatedly.

Logically, I know the 3’s are a phase, as is pretty much everything in every stage of a child’s life. He’s learning to push boundaries – or buttons, depending on how you look at it. He’s learning how to express his wants and needs – through screaming. He’s easily distracted – shiny! But observing a 3-year-old and understanding these developmental changes is not the same as trying to feed, dress and transport one in any timely manner to get on with your day.

As I was contemplating how to run away from being a parent, I got stuck on the word transition. Life is always in transition, and we need to accept that everything is impermanent. Yoga asks us to be fully awake and present, to not attach ourselves to the past or to the future. My brain kept going down the rabbit hole to all the times I have been vividly awake to life transitions – moving to California, being diagnosed with thyroid disease, losing my father – and underneath those events and more was the uncertainty and discomfort of being in transition.

Thinking about Bear Shark’s natural birth, I remember being in the throes of transition, which are the last few centimeters of dilation during labor. The contractions had gotten stronger and longer as I labored down on hands and knees. While the first 7 centimeters are the hardest and the slowest, the last few in transition are fast and ferocious. All the birthing books were right. You feel like you can’t take anymore physical exertion. You think, “I can’t do this anymore.” You freak out mentally. And then you remember that this is transition and know that the end is near.

Big changes in life do not come painlessly or easily. Perhaps this is what the 3’s are. 3-year-olds are shedding the last of babyhood and becoming people who have complete thoughts. I remember how huge of a leap it felt like when the Big Kid emerged in his mid-4’s without struggling every minute of the day. The tearful moments came less frequently. The ability to put on shoes and get himself dressed and eat his meals without constant fighting was such a relief to him and to us.

While this next year will not come nearly as fast or as furiously as transition in birth, I am trying to just stay grounded in the present. This is painful and uncomfortable and makes me question why we even had kids in the first place. But I see big brother at 5 going on 6, and he’s this amazing little person who’s my hiking buddy and great conversation at dinner, and I know Bear Shark will be amazing in his own way when he comes out on the other side.

I cannot and should not wish this time away, as painful as it is. Instead, I’m trying to look at the 3’s as life’s way of demanding I be a witness to Bear Shark’s transition. This is also probably life’s way of requiring that I transition as a parent myself, one that can soften to discomfort and be more compassionate toward myself, my children and other parents.

Inks Lake State Park

We visited Inks Lake State Park at the peak of wildflower and bluebonnet season. With our State Parks Pass in hand, we wanted to find a park that was within a short drive (in case there was a freak-out moment) so the boys could have their first camping experience. Inks Lake has waterfront cabins in addition to tent camping, and that worked out perfectly for our family.

Heads up that Central Texas campsites at many state parks fill up FAST in the spring. We booked this trip a month ahead to get a Friday night spot. It only got more crowded by Saturday. Checking other parks’ availability nearby, many were booked up on weekends almost 2 months ahead.

Besides our Parks Pass, the best investment we made was picking up a Chillax Hammock from Costco. They normally retail for $70, and Costco was selling them for $35. The Big Kid spent the entire afternoon and early evening, lounging in the hammock. If the night hadn’t gotten chilly, he probably would’ve slept in it too.

Thankfully, my husband is an experienced camper and got a fire going for us, grilled, set up the lantern and cleaned up any cooking messes. It was nice to be pampered, enjoying the lake, the breeze and the hammock. We even had a goose visit us, and the kids braved the chilly water to take a quick dip. They stayed up WELL past bedtime, playing with flashlights and making shadow puppets inside of the cabin.

The next morning, we were up bright and early. The husband got the camping stove up and running to make coffee and breakfast tacos. After we cleaned up and packed out, we took full advantage of our visit with hiking.

The Big Kid has really impressed me with his hiking skills. He especially loves any opportunity to climb on top of rocks, so we took some scenic detours to peak down at the little waterfalls below. People were sunbathing and swimming. We were trying to keep our kids from getting a little too close to the edges of cliffs!

It probably doesn’t help that they see me planking in precarious places. 😉 It’s all My Peak Challenge‘s fault.

Bluebonnets were everywhere at the park (we went in mid-March) and even along the road leading into the park. There were numerous photo opp spots, and we couldn’t help but take as many pictures as our kids would allow.

We weren’t sure after our long hike whether the kids could handle any more adventures, but after a re-energizing lunch, the Big Kid insisted on renting a canoe. You can’t really tell in the pic, but Bear Shark was nodding off in the back. The gentle rocking of the boat and the warm sun made it perfect napping conditions. We took the canoe out to Devil’s Hole, where crazy teens were cliff jumping, and then back to the dock. A little ice cream snack before we hit the road, and we had two sleeping kids on the drive home.

A successful first “camping” trip under our belt! We have more State Park visits planned this year. I hope I can stay on top of blogging about them without getting too far behind. We really enjoyed our visit and plan to go back, even just to lounge in a hammock the whole time.

Inks Lake State Park
3630 Park Road 4 West
Burnet, TX 78611

Pedernales Falls State Park

The last time my husband and I went out to Pedernales Falls State Park, we had our old dog Boo Boo with us. To get to the falls, you have to scale some pretty large boulders, and I kind of forgot how much effort it took, especially when you’re trying to get a 65-lb dog who isn’t a jumper up and over.

Eight years later, no dog but two kids… same huge boulders. It took some effort between my husband and I to pass kids over crevices to make sure no one fell into holes or moving water. It also took quite a bit of effort to keep Bear Shark from trying to jump off of boulders that were taller than him!

On our way to Twin Falls, we accidentally took a more scenic trail down the hill to the river that’s part of Trammell’s Crossing Trail. It was a fun little detour, climbing over rocks and following the natural “stairs” that led downhill, but it also meant we needed to make the hike back up to connect back to the trail with blue markers.

With recent rain, the falls were more impressive than our last visit. The Big Kid hiked with me to go check out bigger waterfalls and showed us his bouldering skills.

Bear Shark, on the other hand, mostly walked around bare chested and jumped off rocks as if he were a Power Ranger. He also collected a lot of shells in his tiny pant pockets. We counted 42 hiding in his pants.

The Big Kid announced on the way home, “This is the best day ever!” He proceeded to crash in his car seat and napped for most of the hour and a half drive home. I love taking my family to parks, hiking along trails, discussing geological formations and the importance of conservation. I always feel grounded when I’m connected with nature, and these weekend getaways have both immediate and lasting effects.

Pedernales Falls State Park
2585 Park Road 6026
Johnson City, TX 78636

SXSW 2017: Modern Composer Music Showcase

My Sixth Street days are LOOOOOONG gone. But having a Platinum badge this year and access to the Music portion of SXSW was enough for me to venture downtown in the evening. While some of the bigger names were certainly on my radar, I had a hard time trying to figure out teaching and family and trying to see Weezer play at midnight. Also, I don’t stay up until midnight out and about anymore!

Instead, I looked for a smaller, quieter venue. One where I could sit in air conditioning without being too crowded. I landed on the Modern Composer Showcase at St. David’s Episcopal Church for an evening of piano music. (Side note: I began playing piano when I was 4 and continued lessons through 15.) I previewed all the artists and liked what I was hearing. I even added them to some of my yoga class playlists. While other people were finishing their dinners downtown, I settled into the church with a 2nd row seat.

Most of the artists I saw were from Europe, where it seems that classical music with a modern twist is much more prominent. Keep coming to America, please!

Martin Kohlstedt
A mix of piano and electronic overlay, Martin was a joy to watch. He comes from Germany, and his music is both vibrant and passionate. The man can emote, which is impressive because he’s a pretty tall guy getting down into the keys! One of his pieces had him reaching over to manipulate the strings inside of the open piano, and I thought for sure he was going to knock the bench over at some point with how much emotion he brought to his performance.

This was so lovely!!! #MartinKohlstedt #sxsw #sxswmusic #piano #moderncomposer @martinkohlstedt

A post shared by Terri K (@findingdrishti) on

 

Chad Lawson
Of all the artists that evening, Chad was the only American and purely a pianist. No extra set up. For that night’s performance, he added a piece of felt under the strings to soften the sound. He explained how he has two young kids (about my kids’ ages), and the only way for him to be able to play at night without waking up the house was to add the felt. He could still attack the instrument, while creating a subtle muted tone. This new “sound” he created by necessity became part of what caught the attention of producers, and he’s created music for The Walking Dead, Lore Podcast and other commercial work in addition to his solo albums.

Come to my restorative yoga classes, and he’s now prominently featured on my playlists.

He recently shared an unreleased piece for Piano Day, March 29, the 88th day of the year for the 88 keys on a piano.

Ryan Vail
I was surprised to learn that Ryan, from Northern Ireland, was a chemical engineer before pursuing music. He has a very chill electronic/piano combo sound with a head-bopping beat, which you’ll notice he bops along to while he performs. I’m really digging his sound for my vinyasa class playlists. There’s a lightness and brightness to his music.

He too shared new music for Piano Day.

Dardust
This group of three come from Italy and closed out the night. Piano plus percussion plus electronic plus showmanship (and sometimes strings), Dardust was a blast to watch live. It was a strange juxtaposition for them to be performing in this lofty church hall, but it worked. I think I smiled the entire 40 minutes that they played; it was nonstop energy.

Last one: @dardust. Super fun show. Love the layered instruments and sounds. #sxsw #sxstdavid

A post shared by Terri K (@findingdrishti) on

Check out their music videos, and you’ll see what I mean.

That was my one crazy night out for SXSW Music. I never made it to Weezer or The Roots or Hansen or Jimmy Eat World (90s coming back in style?). I did try desperately to see Japanese Wallpaper, an electronic artist from Australia, but one of his unofficial showcases closed down early after we had sat around listening to other DJs for 2 hours. I knew I should’ve made an effort to see one of his 11 pm performances!

I guess if I’m fortunate enough to get access to Music again next SXSW, I’ll know that finding a small venue with interesting artists is the way to go. I also have a renewed love for piano. It’s still sitting quietly at my parents’ house, but if/when we finally pull the trigger to knock down walls at our house, I’ll have my own little piano nook. Maybe I’ll need to add the felt in too so I won’t disturb the kids at night.

Restorative Yoga Series

I’m a firm believer in balancing the hard and the soft in life. While most of my teaching schedule is vinyasa classes, I do offer a couple of classes to help students slow down each week. It’s even evident in how I teach my vinyasa classes. I try to save the entire second half of class to longer, slower stretches and a plump savasana at the end. The slower second half is JUST as important as the strength and stamina portion of the standing, heat-building postures.

In my personal practice, I’m probably 75% restorative or slow flow at this point in my life and only 25% vinyasa or bigger energy play – especially while I’m following the My Peak Challenge workouts. I need restorative yoga to keep me sane and rest my body. I need meditation to clear the excess, the negative, the hopelessness, the drama, the anger, the cobwebs and other mental hang-ups that flood my mind. Without these practices, you’d find me buried under my kids’ filth day after day, crying myself to sleep.

I was talking with a student recently who asked about how to deal with chronic pain he was feeling in his arches and his legs. As we discussed what he was experiencing, I asked about what kind of shoes he wears and what activities he does that affect his legs. His answer: Mostly flip flops, and his workouts led him to having tendinitis. He already knew the answers. He needed to give his arches a break with proper supporting shoes, and he needed to vary his workouts and include slow stretching and real rest.

So why do we do these things that cause us harm? Why are we so afraid to balance the go-go-go in our lives with something quieter and slower?

As part of Austin Bouldering Project’s Sunday Fundays in April, I’ll be leading two sessions in a four-part restorative series with my fellow yoga teacher Becca. I’ll discuss how to identify the source of our suffering and how to break out of our habitual cycles. Through various meditation techniques, breathing exercises and restorative yoga poses, we’ll work to make our minds and bodies whole again.

I’d say the poses are relatively easy, but for many students, being quiet and still will be the hardest part of practice. Come join me April 2 and 23, and Becca on April 9 and 30. These are 90-minute sessions of leisurely working your way back to YOU.

Austin Bouldering Project
Sunday Funday Restorative Series
April 2, 9, 23 and 30 at 10 am
*This series is INCLUDED with membership, punch cards and day pass.

Planks & elbow creases

Part of the My Peak Challenge workouts, I’ve been doing a LOT of planks – regular planks and side planks. I just started Month 3 of the program and can make it through 4 minutes of forward plank in 3 rounds, so that’s an average of 1:20 per round. I am noticing a big difference in my core and also in my arms, shoulders and back when I practice yoga.

There are a few adjustments that I’ve made in my own practice and that I offer to my students to make their planks stronger, which then improves their downward facing dog, chaturanga and arm balances.

Let’s first take a look at some common problem spots (with arrows!).

  1. Elbows are locked out and the elbow creases are pointing toward each other.  There’s very little upward lift through the arms this way, and as you lose strength and the elbows bend, they end up going side to side (no good for building strength for chaturanga and arm balances).
  2. Saggy shoulders. As the elbows lock out, everything dumps down, especially in the shoulders. I’m “hanging” here in my shoulder girdle, rather than pressing up. When the shoulder girdle sags, that causes low back pain, which can snowball into all sorts of other unpleasant sensations.
  3. Head tucked and hanging. I probably did this for all of my early planks as a way to hide from the discomfort of doing a plank and not feeling yet strong enough to hold for very long. It adds strain through the neck, which starts to round and crunch the back.

Now let’s take a look at plank that builds strength in the right places and is more stable.

  1. Elbow creases spin forward, micro bend in the elbow joint. Without moving my hands, I used the muscles in my arms to spin the elbow creases forward (see how my tattoo is more visible now?). This immediately causes the chest to broaden so your collarbones get a little more space. That little action also activates the core. The micro bend in the elbow joint keeps the muscles drawing energy up, instead of relying solely on lining bones up. My shoulders are also stacked directly over my wrists, not behind or in front.
  2. Puff up between the shoulder blades, draw them toward your heels. Action 1 broadened the chest, but you also need to keep the shoulders from collapsing. I’ll put a finger right between my students’ shoulder blades and ask them to push up against my finger. Belly stays tight. Then, lengthen through the spine by drawing the shoulder blades toward your heels.
  3. Drishti is under your face, not behind. Lengthening through the spine means all the way up to the top of your head. Keep the sides of the neck long and find a spot under your face to look (this focal gazing point is your drishti), rather than tucking the chin to see what’s happening at your feet (nothing interesting there).

    * All this upper body action works for plank from the knees as well.
    ** In the case of plank on the forearms, stack the shoulders directly over the elbows. Everything else applies.

Here are the two side-by-side for comparison.

Practicing plank with the right structure makes almost everything with weight in the arms become more accessible and a little lighter.

  • Chaturanga dandasana (4-limbed staff pose)
  • Adho mukha svanasana (downward facing dog)
  • Bakasana (crow pose) and pretty much every arm balance
  • Pincha mayurasana (forearm stand)
  • Handstands
  • Even cat/cow pose

Give it a try, and come back to tell me how it went.

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