Writing and editing

Ram Vakkalanka teaches philosophy, chanting and Sanskrit at our studio. Our practice and general studio philosophy is so intense and focused, I think we need to get a little spun out. Also, my home study habits are poor and inextricably linked to deadlines, reading lists and essays. That is to say, when I have a quiet moment, I don’t often curl up with the Yoga Sutras if I could check my email fifteen times in five minutes instead. Taking classes and talking with Ram when I can has added a great deal of depth to my practice and my teaching. Which is not to say that I am not still the same ignorant jerk – I am! But at least I feel like I am getting my toes wet, instead of standing on the beach complaining of the heat. Do you know what I mean?

The ocean metaphor is apt for Ram, because dude knows a whole bunch. Sometimes, David and I meet with him and we can ask him ANYTHING and he will, no joke, talk for an hour on the subject. Often by the end of the hour I feel like i have been tossed about in a strong wave. I am pretty sure I have asked him the SAME question and he has talked for an hour differently about it, trying to get me to catch a glimpse of the surface, or the bottom – I’m not sure which.

Our last “Chanting the Yoga Sutras” session with Ram, I asked him why my job as a parent made non-attachment or the idea of a dual world of Purusha (pure consciousness, soul or spirit) and Prakriti (our mind-body systems, the physical and not true manifestations of Purusha) seem so unappealing. I feel like I need to believe this reality because my son is in it. I feel confused as to why anyone would want to be enlightened because it might move you further from your children.  How could I want to be un- attached to my child?

He told me that my son didn’t actually belong to me. I don’t own him, the universe is just creating him through me. And somehow this made perfect sense. I see myself in him, and I see David – but Holden is also something entirely different. My three year old corrects me on the difference between jellyfish and siphonophores – and the importance of that difference is not either of us. Funny, how I can know this about myself as a child. That I am same but different from my mom and dad. And while they tried their best to help me learn how to be a good person –  I am my own person, good or bad. Separate from them, but connected to them. I know this, and maybe have always known this about who I am as a daughter, buI have trouble with the same idea as a mom.

Ram said, like a good babysitter. You can love the children in your care very much and make sure they are safe and protected. Teach them right from wrong and be present and engaged with them.  But at the end of the day, a good babysitter knows those children do not belong to her. Non-attachment parenting. I found this so beautiful.

Speaking of attachment parenting. I read a lot about it before I had my son. I tried to follow the tenets to the letter. because so much of it made sense to me like baby wearing. After Holden was born, my reaction to the books changed, and when I read the same books – I felt guilty and cruel. The books didn’t change, I suppose I just became much more tired. I became convinced about my own failings as an “attached” parent to my baby, Recently, I started reading book on attachment parenting and it brought me back to those same thoughts and feelings. Like a little cognitive loop in my head. The lesson here, for me, is that I can’t parent according to a certain set of rules. Most of the time, I just have to get up in the morning and try not to be an asshole. At the end of the day, I have to forgive myself if I was an asshole, apologize to my kid  and attempt to do better tomorrow. I recognize that is a sad parenting philosophy. I think I like the babysitter idea better.

Next week I am going to ask Ram to write a book on Non-Attachment Parenting.

He wasn’t so sure if skating was going to be his thing when he watched every kid go by and wipe out. But I told him he would have to hold my hand so I didn’t fall and that seemed to do the trick.

His favourite part was the “caution/danger” tape strung across the steps to the parking lot so that you wouldn’t be tempted to fling yourself off the rink into a car.

I often need parenting advice. Thankfully, I go to the studio everyday and there I can ask any number of sweet, sensible moms and dads for their two cents. Because we now live in little isolated family units, and since I can’t just go ask the village elder when I have a problem that I don’t want to email my sister about, I turn to the interweb to guide me. I am happy for the amazing resource that is the world wide web, but it does sort-of concern me for two reasons:

1. If I am raising my child through internet advice, that means other people are certainly doing the same and I’m not sure what that means for our kids because…

2. The interweb is full of crazies.

Recently, I googled “three year old won’t wash hair” because Holden screams and yells and generally freaks out whenever he gets his hair washed. We start out okay, until Holden gets worked up about a drop of water on his forehead. And then, without fail the whole thing ends in a big pile of shampoo, water, and tears. We reached a low point last month, when fed up after several months of the aforementioned screaming, I told him that his hair would have to be cut off if he couldn’t wash it without starting WWIII every week. That was a shitty thing to say, and it made him cry and freak out more. After I put him to bed that night I decided I had officially reached the end of my parenting skills on that particular issue. So I turned to the bastion of good parenting, Google.

There are always three distinct parenting camps on those discussion boards. There are the Yahoo Answers type, that generally favour corporal punishment, the BabyCenter moms that have week-long cutesy project ideas, and then the far-out radical parenting sites.

The three pieces of advice I gleaned from the discussion boards:

1. Smack your child so he knows who is in charge. (Yahoo Answers)

2. Buy foamy stars and beautiful shapes and stick them to the ceiling above your sink. Buy an insert to wash your child’s hair beauty parlour style in the sink. Make up nice songs and a short musical about hair washing. Build the sets and cast your pets in the production. Perform on the street for change and then use that money to take a course on towel making. Make the most beautiful soft towel and present it to your child in a candlelit ceremony at his favourite toy store. (babycenter)

3. My child hasn’t taken a bath in over a year. I forced him to wash once a year ago, and he cried. That night I lay on the kitchen floor and sobbed in the darkness for hours because I knew I had broken his trust forever. I vowed then to never force him to wash his hair. I can see that it is dirty and he has crusty spots on his scalp. Sometimes I gently suggest a bath and he says “NO BATH” I am sure he will take a bath one day. I know yours will too! (radical unschooling site)

Okay, so I exaggerated a little with number 2, but 1 and 3 are almost word for word suggestions by ACTUAL PARENTS who posted their opinions because they think they are doing right by their kids. That night in bed, I told David what I had read. We both lay awake feeling worried for our future.

The next morning, I understood something – something I felt I had known all along but it took some creepy parents to make it clear: Parenting is about being the fucking adult. All the time. Even when you want to cry in the kitchen for hours or hit someone or whatever crazy thing you think might be okay at the time but actually totally isn’t. You have to take a step back and take a breath and say, “Ok, self. I am screwing this up. It is my job to fix it.” And that is a really hard thing to do. At least for me because I like to blame other people for my problems. But this parenting stuff, this is my problem, my joy, my heartache. I alone have to answer for my actions or inaction.

That day, I asked Holden if he didn’t like getting water in his eyes. He said he didn’t. So, David held a towel over his eyes tightly while I washed his hair. Then we chanted his name for five minutes because he didn’t freak out. When he got out of the bath, he said he wanted to cut his hair. Voila! Stanny and David, 1. Google Parenting, 0.

Just so you don’t think I waste all my time googling parenting questions, today I googled historical photos of Bowood and Lawrence, where the studio is located in Toronto. I found this on the Toronto Public Library’s site.

It is St. Leonard’s Anglican church, it was moved further south. But the picture, and the implicit tumbleweeds, it made me think that our funny small location might be a little point of focus. And I was really happy. Amazing, no?

I also recently googled “What Girls Character Are You?” And I completed three different quizes which all came up with the EXACT same answer. Which means it is Poll Time!

categories: AYCT, baby
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The other day we were driving to the studio and we noticed a women in full Lululemon gear crossing the street quickly and somewhat erratically. Actually, to really paint this picture I have to go back a few steps. When we drive into the studio we leave at 6a. It is dark and quiet and nighttime still hangs in the air. Mercedes, David, Holden and I all shuffle in and out of the bathroom, throw on our coats and pile into the little car. We cross town from our little home on our little street to bigger houses on prettier streets. We listen to music in the car and talk, sometimes Holden falls asleep.

The studio is on Yonge Street, but it is all cleaned up where we are. Last winter there was a man on a bench outside AYCT who peed in a cup and had a painful-looking leg issue. But that is about it. No one has threatened to rape and kill me at Yonge and Lawerence. Holden has a bonafide fan club at the local Starbucks, when I go in people I don’t know start talking to him. The most hardship I have experienced in the area is having to eat second-rate baked goods because a local dearth of vegan yummies. More importantly, I have never seen a crackhead.

But, on the drive into the studio that morning, we saw the woman on her morning jog  – and David said, “Is that a crackhead?”

That hardened, thin-lipped face I have associated with crack addiction for so long, is actually  the face of driven unhappiness.

Motherhood can make you so uptight. I was uptight before I had a baby – but now compulsion is through the roof. I actually contemplated packing everything for my trip to New York in a ziplock bag to prevent bedbugs. Mercedes asked me, jokingly, if I would pack in individual ziplock bags. And I actually pondered it for a second, thinking it might be a useful way to organize. Or a surefire way to be institutionalized. I swear I didn’t mean to become such a controlling bitch, it just happened because no one can do anything right.

I have a picture in my head of who I am and it is something like this:

crossed with this:

But really, day to day, it is more like this.

I walked by a young woman in Mysore one day. I had Holden in the carrier. She was sitting on a stoop, her legs bent in an awkward way, she was drinking a chai by herself. And I felt sad, because she looked so young. Like such a girl, and I felt so far away from that. Like I might never get back to that feeling of sitting on the sidewalk, kinda lonely, but filled with promise.

Having a baby is good because babies are the greatest people on earth and YOUR baby is the bestest person ever. OF COURSE the pros outweigh the cons, but having a baby can also suck because babies can turn you into a controlling bitch.

Plus, it hurts when they come out.

C-sections and Ashtanga:

C-sections are so common, I’ve talked to a gajillion women who have similar birth stories. I mean, my dog had two c-sections. I think in my case, once the birth started getting medicalized – I was strapped up to a bunch of machines, I was given a medication to speed up my labour and an epidural – I think a c-section was kind of inevitable. At a certain point I just couldn’t move to change the baby’s position or help move things along. I’m not sure if it is because no one knows how to use forceps anymore or doctors just prefer to intervene just in case, but I know more people who have had c-sections than natural births at home.

Now, four months later, I think anything is possible post c-section. There are just a few considerations. And I think everything moves a little more slowly because of the surgery. So far, I think it is all about learning how to collect your bandhas and reintroduce your abdominal muscles to each other. For the first two months, maybe because I went through labour, my pelvic floor was numb. For the first few weeks, I would only know I needed to pee because my belly would start to cramp. Lifting my perineum wasn’t really an option – I couldn’t feel it to lift it. I would see myself in the mirror holding the baby with my stomach sticking out and my lower back severely arched. David said that was why they call it householder yoga. You need to pull in your bandhas to carry around a baby.

I do think the biggest revelation has been how brave birth and a c-section can make you. Every time, I feel like wimping out a bit in my practice – I tell myself, “Hey! They sliced your tummy open and pulled a baby out. The epidural was wearing off when they sewed you back up. If you land on your face coming out of supta kurmasana is that going to hurt more? No way, toughie!”

So, having a c-section has made me even more stubborn than I already am.

Broken Toes and Ashtanga Yoga

I broke my pinky toe on Thursday rushing around. I heard the crack when my toe hit the corner of the wall and I just kinda knew it wasn’t the usual stub. I swore a lot and it felt pretty gross. On Friday the toe got a purple band around it with a slightly bluish hue down the side of my foot. And apparently, you do need your pinky toe to practice primary series. Lame. So, I am gently easing myself into and out of poses. Janu B and C on the left side are sort of out.  The good news is, my hamstrings feel better.

David broke his toe In Mysore several years ago when someone was sitting on his mat as he came out of Karandavasana. It was sort of the same thing – an evil-sounding crack followed by a sinking feeling and a purple band the next day. His cleared up in a week or so and I’m hoping mine will do the same.

And yes, I did tell myself, “Breaking your toe is nothing! You gave birth! Buck up, toughie and get on your mat!”

On Hallowe’en we are celebrating AYCT’s second birthday with our annual Ashtanga Olympics. The Ashtanga Olympics is totally the highlight of my year. Maureen, David and I made it up as a joke because ashtangis have a propensity towards competitive behaviour. We thought most people wouldn’t want to participate. But then, as the event was coming up, people started asking us about the events and trying to figure out ways to prepare. I had students demanding we tailor the contests to their strengths – long headstands, backbending etc. Last year I watched 10 adults pile themselves on top of each other in child’s pose for a free class, while I sat – newly pregnant – working my way through a mountain of cashew cookies. It was glorious. This year, I’m totally throwing myself on top of people. And I will also eat a mountain of cookies.

Oh! and we are setting up a photo booth for students to get asana shots taken and all the money will be donated to Farm Sanctuary to keep Sprinkles and Samuel in bling. Tim Bermingham is taking the pictures, his work is fantastic and I always feel relaxed and comfortable working with him. He took my pregnancy asana shots that I have so far been too overwhelmed with baby stuff to work with.

So, basically, unless you live outside the GTA, you have to come. If you don’t, we will all just assume you hate animals and Sprinkles won’t be able to get this necklace that he was dreaming of.

He really needs one!