For March Break, my four-year old daughter Lizzie went to an arts camp. In last week’s post, I wrote about her love for art and that all things creative make her shine from the inside out. All week I found myself in conversations with people about passion, about what makes us shine.
For one of my friends, it is sailing; for another, it is working with kids with special needs; for our very own YummyMummyClub editor, Sharon, it has been speed skating. What has been clear is that when you find "that thing", you just know.Ã¢â‚¬Â¨Ã¢â‚¬Â¨For me, it is yoga. I love running, I love writing, I love outdoor physical activities and all of my creative pursuits, but I always come back to yoga. From the first class I took in 1994 - when there were few studios to choose from, and before lululemon was even an idea (imagine!) – I knew I had found my thing. It was a place where I could connect: with my body (both strengthening and nurturing it); and with my mind (calming my worries and my tendency to overthink). I loved that I left every class feeling “whole.”Ã¢â‚¬Â¨Ã¢â‚¬Â¨
After that first class, I went up to the teacher and said, I am going to teach yoga one day. And sure enough, five years later, I took a leave of absence from my work as the Director of a drama School for kids and teens, and headed to an ashram in the Sierra Nevada mountains in California for a live-in intensive teacher training. It’s funny to look back on this. Most of my friends and family thought I was crazy. Although it had enjoyed a bout of popularity in the 70s, yoga was certainly not in the mainstream. People asked me, “why would you want to train as a yoga teacher?” And I didn’t even know how to explain it. I just knew that it was something I had to do.Ã¢â‚¬Â¨
Despite the yoga centre having a great reputation in the yoga world, my dad thought I was joining a cult. Cell phones were still for emergencies so I didn’t take mine. (Besides, it was so big, it wouldn’t have fit in my purse!) There was one payphone we could use to call home, and certainly no public computer. My dad thought I was joining a cult. To quell his fears, my brother and I came up with a code-word that I could say on a collect call home if I needed to be “saved”. Ã¢â‚¬Â¨
Clearly I didn’t need saving. It was an incredible experience and I returned to Toronto with many ideas of ways I could continue to integrate yoga into my life and work. Within a few months of completing my teacher training, I moved to London, England and set up shop as a yoga instructor, working with athletes, and catering to companies who wanted to bring health initiatives into the workplace. Again, looking back I am amazed at my tenacity. I hadn’t run a yoga business before, let alone in a different country, but it just seemed to be the thing I had to do. I met some incredible people and was teaching in law firms, tv stations, communications/pr firms and working with runners and sports teams. Ã¢â‚¬Â¨Ã¢â‚¬Â¨
When I returned to Toronto a year later, some of my creative pursuits were taking off and I found myself working as a playwright/writer/performer half of the time and running my yoga business the other half.Ã¢â‚¬Â¨Ã¢â‚¬Â¨ Although my life has taken many fabulous twists and turns in the past twelve years, I still split my time much the same way. I spend half of my working life writing and in creative mode, and the other half teaching yoga and Pilates and speaking about health and wellness. Along the way, I have gotten married, moved to Ottawa and back, and had two amazing children.Ã¢â‚¬Â¨Ã¢â‚¬Â¨ What has not changed at all is the feeling I have when I step onto my yoga mat. It’s been seventeen years since my first yoga class and, still, regardless of life circumstances, my mood, or what’s going on in my body, I step onto my mat and I am smiling inside. This, to me, is passion. Ã¢â‚¬Â¨Ã¢â‚¬Â¨
What makes you shine?
Today I dropped my four-and-half-year-old daughter Lizzie off at the first day of an arts camp for March break. The camp's focus is on art and dance and creativity. I thought it would be a good fit for my daughter, who loves pretty much anything to do with art. But, as I’ve discovered through the years, just because a child enjoys an activity, it doesn’t’ mean she’ll necessarily enjoy “the activity” you actually enroll her in.
Flashback: My daughter Lizzie is dancing around the house in her leotard. She is pretending to be a ballerina. She is pleading for us to sign her up for ballet lessons. We enrol her in said ballet class. After one class, she refuses to step through the dance studio door ever again.
So, this morning, on our way to arts camp, I am wondering how Lizzie will react to a new setting and new teachers. A bit shy at first, she greeted one of the teachers with only a half peek out from behind my legs. “Do you prefer to be called Elizabeth or Lizzie?” the teacher asked. Silence. But then Lizzie saw the art teacher gathering supplies, moving coloured paper onto a table, and carrying a case of craft materials across the room. Lizzie's eyes lit up, and her smile grew far beyond the corners of her mouth. She moved out to the side of me, and said in a confident voice, “Lizzie, please,” she said.
That was it. Shyness gone. Reluctance replaced with pure anticipation and excitement. Within seconds, Lizzie joined the opening circle, keen to get involved. And as I left Lizzie smiled at me and waved goodbye.
That image of her will stick with me. Because once more my daughter has reminded me of something important: That when we find an activity we love to do, it brings out something inside of us that shines, it gives us courage where we may not have had it before, and we dive into our experiences with energy and enthusiasm.
As adults, we should all be so lucky to experience or discover this kind of passion.
It’s International Women’s Day. As I began writing this post, I was going to ruminate on the importance of women’s voices, on the power and strength we hold in our hearts and minds, on our ability to initiate change. But my mind kept coming back to one particular yoga posture. It’s called Warrior III (or Virabhadrasana III in its Sanskrit name).
It is a posture that requires strength, balance, grace, power, openness and concentration. It involves being grounded and focused, but is also most effective when practiced with a sense of ease and lightness.
So, in honour of International Women’s Day, I am posting this image.
Feel free to try the pose and celebrate the balance of strength and softness of Warrior III. It’s certainly a metaphor for the power we women hold within.