Jamesy is Turning Two

At this time two years ago, I was laboring in the car while Vince diligently did his Sunday duty and cleaned the school where I’d just put in my last day two days before. We went home shortly after, I got in the bath (which, incidentally, sped my labor up), and Vince packed my hospital bag. Four and a half hours later, after roughly thirteen hours of labor, a panicked ride to an unplanned hospital, and so much support from Vince and mom, James, my sweet, perfect, strong boy, was born.

He’s two, guys. HE’S TWO. How did that happen? Shouldn’t I still be holding him in my arms, swaddled, pressed up against me all the time? Shouldn’t I still be willingly attached to my breast pump and holding him high on my chest every two hours? Shouldn’t he still need me every second of the day?

James. Is. Two.

I’m sure every mom feels this way, but I’m so incredibly proud of the little boy he’s becoming. Some people often refer to him as wild, or get a look in their eye that says, “Boy, that kid’s a handful,” but I love every single second of his energy, his exploratory nature, his energetic and joyful spirit. I love that he’s stubborn, that he’s independent, that he wants to explore the world around him and see what it will do. He may seem wild and rough, but let me assure you, he’s absolutely perfect.

It’s weird knowing that somehow I’ve managed to keep a child alive, a whole human, for two years. It’s weird, and empowering, and still a little terrifying. I titled James’s first birthday blog “My Joyfully Full, Utterly Broken Heart,” and that blog title rings true for this one as well. As I put my son to bed tonight, my heart felt joyfully, completely full, but it also felt utterly, completely broken. Why? Because as much as I love every new day with him, every new word, every new skill, every laugh, I mourn the loss of the baby that he’s growing away from. I understand a little more each day why my mom still calls my brother and me her babies. James, whether he’s two or twenty or a hundred, will always, always, be my baby.

At two-years-old, James loves to dance, he loves to run, he loves to laugh. He’s hard headed (where does he get that, I wonder? Definitely not me…), independent, and so incredibly smart. He has energy for days and loves to “help” however he can. He loves his dada, and he loves his mama. In general, he just loves.

I look forward to the next year, watching him mature from two to three, but already I’m mourning the loss of one–the loss of the year that held his first steps, so many first words, so many firsts in general.

To my son, my sweet angel, my lively, lovely little boy, Happy Birthday. I love you with my whole entire heart, and will love you more each and every day from now until forever.

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On Being an Individual and Being a Mom

Something has been pressing on me for a while, and I’ve gone back and forth on whether I wanted to write about it. But today, I decided I had to for my own sake. It’s been weighing on me for a few days, so the words have to come out. It all stems from multiple things, the most recent being a photo I posted on a few social media sites of myself three years ago with a caption relating my desire to feel that strong again, and from a photo I posted when I was pregnant with James with a similar sentiment–the desire to take control of my body back and feel good in it again.

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Why is that once you’re pregnant or have had a child, any comment about wanting to get stronger, lose weight, or gain your confidence back, is met with something like, “You’ve had a baby! Be proud of who you are now!” or “Your new body was earned! Battle scars!” or even, “Yeah right. Once you have a baby, it’s all over.” I’m not saying those comments are wrong, (well, some of them are…) but why can’t we say, “Your body has done a lot–carrying a human inside it and then outside! You should be proud, but if you need to do work to gain back your old confidence, your old strength, and you’re willing to do that work, good for you!” 

When a mom loses her baby weight and gets strong again, we don’t say, “Shame on you. How dare you try and change the body your baby helped create!” No, we say, “Yes! Good for you. Way to go!” But when those of us who struggle (and boy, do I struggle–with weight gain and self confidence and feeling good) say  we want to achieve those same goals, it’s like we’re doing something terrible, something shameful. “How could you want that? Aren’t you happy you have your baby?” Why are those things even in the same thought?

I remember when I was pregnant with James, I posted a picture of myself (see the second picture at the top). I had been working  hard for months to drop so extra weight and gain some muscle. I felt strong and beautiful in that picture and I wanted to feel that way again, independent of my son and my pregnancy after he was born.  (I felt beautiful during that pregnancy, too, but pregnancy only lasts 10 months.) On that photo, I got some of the most hurtful, if well intentioned, comments ever. People told me my child should come first. That it was laughable that I ever thought I’d have time for myself or my own body again. That it was all over and to give up now. They told me looks weren’t everything and I needed to focus on the baby. They told me I should be proud of stretch marks and extra weight and saggy skin. They questioned why I wanted that, why I was thinking about it, and then explained what was wrong about my desires and mindset in a not-so-kind way. I felt such guilt after posting that. How could I want this? What is wrong with me to want this? 

But feeling this way is normal. It is. And you know what? Stretch marks don’t bother me. Saggy skin? Who cares. But when I feel weak, when I feel tired, when I feel like a stranger in my skin? That bothers me. Being too heavy to chase my kid without tiring? That bothers me. When I posted that picture, I was trying to say, “I want to someday feel strong like this again.” It’s been just under two years since I posted that and the comments still hurt my heart, even the well-intentioned ones. (PS. There were a few that said, “I know you how feel” or “You’ll get there” and those were more appreciated than the writers could ever know.)

So now I’m pregnant again. 14 weeks along. And this pregnancy has been HARD. Lots of nausea. Vomiting. Dizziness. Fatigue. Back pain. Leg pain. Hip pain. Bloating. GI issues. And I’m only 14 weeks in. So what do I do? I complain some. I let off some steam, and just like with my desire to someday have a strong, agile body again, I hear things like: “But it’s so worth it!” Of course it is, but that shouldn’t minimize or negate how I feel now.

It’s like once you get pregnant, once you become a mom, your feelings as an individual not only become less important, they become almost taboo. And I’ve been guilty of saying these things to new moms. “The first trimester stinks, but it’s worth it in the end.” “Your body will change drastically, but once you hold your baby, it doesn’t even matter anymore.”

Well, ladies, let me go on the record and say a few things.

  1. If you’re feeling bad about your body–maybe you’re pregnant and uncomfortable with your new shape, maybe you’ve had a baby and don’t know how to function in your new, reshaped skin–that’s OK. You’re allowed to have feelings about your body that are separate from the feelings about your baby. Like me, you love your baby more than your life. And like me, you also want to feel good in your own skin. Those two things are not dependent on each other, no matter what people (myself included) may have said to you in the past.
  2. Saying that you miss your body, or your confidence, or your strength, does not mean you don’t love your child, or that you aren’t proud of what your body did/is doing to create a child. I’m SO PROUD of my body right now, because it’s growing my little firefly babe, and that is AWESOME. I also feel like I’ve betrayed my body, because over the last three-ish years I’ve stopped taking care of it, stopped taking care of myself, and because of that I don’t feel strong or confident or good. I gained a lot more weight than I should have, I lost a lot more muscle mass than I should have, and I lost myself along the way.
  3. Becoming a mom does not mean you have to lose who you are. You are going to change. You have changed. And that NEEDS to happen. But you don’t cease to exist. You don’t become a nonentity whose sole purpose is to change diapers and wipe runny noses. You are still you, just a new you. Maybe that means your new body, postpartum, is perfect for you. Maybe you feel amazing (I hope you do!). But maybe that means you want to change your body some, work on it, work on yourself and your confidence. Do what makes you feel good and confident and strong, not what everyone else says you should do to feel a certain way.
  4. Be a mom. Love your baby (or babies). Dedicate yourself and your life to caring for them. But leave time and energy for you. For who you are. For what you love. For who you want to be.

Three years ago, I was strong and confident and agile, but I didn’t have my son. Two years ago I was pregnant with James and less strong, but still strong, and so happy to be pregnant. One year ago I held James as he recovered, days out of cranial surgery. I was thankful for his health and that I was healthy enough to care for him. And today, I’m pregnant with my firefly baby, but I am not strong. I am not confident. And that has nothing to do with the baby I’m carrying, but everything to do with me, as a human, not as a mom or as a pregnant woman. Just me. 

Sometimes, as moms, it’s hard to differentiate between our mom-selves and our actual selves. So here’s me. 

I am a mother and wife, a daughter and sister.
I am a writer and a lover of books and pens and paper.
I am a yogini whose practice is anything but steady.
I love animals, love trees, love the clouds and the stars.
I worry a lot. I am anxious.
I feel things so deeply, so intensely, it’s painful sometimes, even the good emotions.
I want to feel physically strong and confident.
I am proud of what my body has done to birth one child and carry a second.
I am not comfortable in my own skin (but that doesn’t mean I regret having my babies).
I am a unique entity, not just a caregiver for others.

If you do read this blog, and do decide to comment, instead of telling me all the reasons why I should  feel good in my own skin, instead just tell me about YOU. What do you love? What are your goals? What’s your passion? What do you feel? What do you want to work on or grow in? Because as long as your desires, your goals, your wants are things that will grow you as a person, will enrich your life, they’re not bad or wrong or taboo. They’re part of who you are.

Thanks for reading, if you did. And I hope no one took offense. I also want to say, as a disclaimer, I am not saying in this blog that to be happy one must be thinner or stronger or anything like that. I’m saying I need to feel stronger to feel good. But you, as an individual, need to do whatever it takes to make you feel good, feel healthy, feel like yourselves. ❤

International Yoga Day

Today is International Yoga Day (according to Facebook), and I wanted to write a little about yoga and what it means and is for me.

I started my yoga journey just over four years ago. When I started doing yoga I was scared I wouldn’t be good enough. I was scared I was too fat, not flexible enough, too clumsy, too-everything and not-enough-everything all at once.

Well, instead, yoga opened up a whole new world for me. *cue Jasmine and Aladdin vocals* Yoga taught me that I was enough. That I had worth. That I had a wholly unique and wonderful place in the world. So of course, to expand my personal yoga journey, I went to yoga teacher training (two years ago) at the OM place. If yoga changed my life, YTT flipped my world upside down, shook it around, and remolded my life in the best, most unimaginable ways. I left that six months of training feeling strong, beautiful, empowered. (I also left with some amazing friendships, but that’s a different story for a different day.)

My whole YTT class knew I wanted to have a baby (I’m not good at keeping those kinds of things to myself.) And at the end of my training I found out I was pregnant (HOORAY!). I spent my pregnancy not doing yoga (I’d planned to practice at least an hour each day to help with labor and weight gain), but instead spent my pregnancy eating and sitting and sleeping. 38 weeks later, I had a baby boy, a perfect, beautiful, wonderful baby boy. My sweet Jamesy. I said that I would start yoga again then, that I would get my body back by eating healthy foods, portion control, exercise. I didn’t. I said I was too tired, too busy, too ______. Seven months later, we found out James needed a major surgery–a cranial vault remodeling–and so I forgot about myself entirely. I focused on preparing for his surgery, and then with caring for him. Even months and months after his surgery, this was my MO.

Now my baby is sixteen months old. And I am 40-50 pounds overweight. But I can still do yoga. And I should still do yoga. But I don’t do it. Why? Because the glow of discovering yoga, of discovering myself in teacher training, has faded. Because I’ve never been so heavy, and even all my positive self talk isn’t helping. Because I don’t like the way I look and I feel sad.

What does that have to do with yoga or with International Yoga Day? I’m so glad you asked.

Yoga is more than just asana (poses). SO much more. Yoga is about the breath. Yoga is about compassion–for your self and others. Yoga is about truth. Yoga is about being in the moment, experiencing the moment–that means the good and the bad. Yoga is about BEING and LIVING. Yoga isn’t about getting the perfect handstand (though that’s super cool, and I hope to be able to do it someday), it’s about your personal, inward journey.

I often feel guilty about not liking the way I look right now. I feel guilty about looking in the mirror, looking at photos, and feeling sad. Feeling scared that I’ll never fit back in my favorite clothes or feel comfortable in my own skin again. But yoga is about allowing those emotions. Experiencing them. Honoring what you’re dealing with, what you’re going through, what you’re feeling. And then, once you’ve experienced it, once you’ve allowed yourself the luxury of just being yourself–good, bad, all of it–in those moments, then you can start to change. And just like in yoga, that change should be slow and steady, like ocean waves or the turning of the world.

I’m rambling. I’m all over the place. But I’m also struggling with allowing myself to feel what I feel about my weight. It’s easy to proclaim from your blog soapbox, “THIS IS WHAT I SHOULD DO!” It’s a lot harder to actually do it.

But I love yoga. I fell instantly in love with the asana practice, and then cultivated a deeper, richer love with the rest. With the breath. With the self awareness. With the quiet. With the realization that I can be who I am, what I am, and that’s OK. So I want to take this love, using International Yoga Day as the platform from which I start, and start applying that love to myself. I want to start taking care of my body, of my mind, of my heart. I want to start loving who I am, where I am, what I am. And I want to learn to appreciate that those changes will all take time, and that that wait, that journey, can be just as sweet, if not sweeter, than the final destination.

Happy International Yoga Day, everyone, ❤

My Joyfully Full, Utterly Broken Heart

Nearly every night before I go to bed, I sneak into my son’s bedroom and shine light on him to watch his sweet breaths for a moment. The panicky part of my mom brain does it to make sure he’s OK, that’s he’s alive and well, and the calm part of my mom brain does it just because I want to see him a moment more before I close my own eyes for the night. And while this little ritual is special to me every night, tonight it was very emotional for me, because when I wake in the morning, my baby will be a whole entire year old.

How can I describe what this feels like? Before James was born, I was terrified and excited. After he was born, I fell in love with this tiny human, and somehow managed to fall more and more and more in love with him every minute of every day. And now, I have this wellspring of love and memories inside me, and my heart is full and broken all at once.

Already I miss his sweet baby coos; I miss the feel of his swaddled newborn body as I struggled to stay awake and hold him; I miss his sweet little face and head shape before his surgery; I miss his first time rolling over, his first crawl, his first steps; I miss being in labor and the feeling–both physically and emotionally–the split second after he entered this world and they laid him on my chest.

And yet, I love my toddler (it’s even hard to type the word!). I love the way he walks to me, the way he flings his body toward me when I’m close enough with biggest smiles and sweetest laughs, the way he pulls at my legs and lifts his arms toward me, knowing I’ll scoop him up. I love how he buries his face into my shoulder and sighs. I love how he trusts that if I’m there, he can’t fall. I love the way he throws his arms up when I say, “How big are you? So big!” I love the sound of his voice as he says, “Dada.” I love this sweet toddler phase, even if he’s into everything and so sweetly wild.

So my heart is so joyfully full of how amazing my baby is and how amazing this life is with him, and it’s so utterly broken by the parts of motherhood that are gone forever with him.

I’m so grateful for my son. I’m so grateful that I get to be his mom. I’m so grateful for the last year, and I’m so looking forward to the next. But for the first time in my life, I understand the times my mommy and daddy have said that no matter how old I get, and no matter how far away I live, I will always be their baby, because James will ALWAYS be my baby. As he starts to talk, to walk, to go to school, to drive, to get married and have his own children, he will forever be my sweet baby who was born so very early on a Monday morning, who barely cried at all–until they took him away to weigh him–and who from the very start stared up at me with the biggest, most amazing blue eyes as if to say, “Hi mommy, we’re in this together now.”

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Moments after James was born.
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Moments after James was born.

From the Mouths of Babes

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been working on something–convincing myself that, just because I’m carrying more weight that I would like, doesn’t mean I have less worth, doesn’t mean my husband loves me less, doesn’t mean everyone is constantly judging me. And you know what? It’s been working! I even wore a fitted–that’s right, a FITTED–shirt to teach my Sunday Restorative Yoga class last week (starts at 6! I’d love to see you there! #ShamelessPlug), and I felt OK. I was still aware of the way my stomach bulged, still aware of the fact that my back isn’t toned and smooth, and the fact that that was visible in that shirt, but I didn’t let it totally color the evening. I was able to focus on my teaching and on my students.

This may not seem like a very big deal, but for me it is. Even when I was thin, I was pretty much constantly obsessing over my weight. I would look at photos, and if I could see a roll, something that didn’t look tiny and flat, I was mortified. If I wore clothes that didn’t fit just right, I was so embarrassed to go out. When I got married, I felt so bad for my husband, because I wasn’t toned, wasn’t thin enough, wasn’t “good” enough for him (disclaimer: he has, from day one, told me that I was beautiful. I’ve just chosen, for whatever reason, not to listen.), so I started doing yoga and eating right, and I was in really good shape! But I still thought those things, still thought I wasn’t thin enough, wasn’t fit enough. And then I had a baby, and gained weight, and everything changed.

But, as my friend Hannah would say, I’m chasing rabbits. Time to get back to the point, which is the fact that, over the last few weeks, I’ve been working on changing my mindset. It’s taken years and years, but I’ve been trying to convince myself that my worth isn’t determined by my weight/size. And it was working. I was feeling good, feeling confident.

And then a few days ago, a child looked at me and said, “Miss Lindsey, your belly is really fat. Big like when your baby was in it.”

BOOM. All the work I’d done, all the pep talks I’d given myself, the teensy bit of confidence I had built up exploded, turned to dust, and blew away with the smallest, most innocent gust of wind.

I got so upset. I wasn’t upset with the kid. Children just say what they see. And this was the first day that I was with these kids that I’d worn a fairly fitted shirt since James as born, so it makes sense that a child would notice and comment. It would be like if I wore my reading glasses, and a kid said, “You’re wearing glasses!” But even though I wasn’t upset with the kid, I was upset.

Suddenly, I thought, “Do all the adults that have seen me today think this? Are they all judging me? Do they think I’m awful and disgusting and oh, I’m so embarrassed, I should have stayed home, I should have worn something else, I shouldn’t have been foolish enough to think it was OK that I wear this fitted shirt. I only wore it because it’s new, and a friend made it for me, and it’s beautiful, but I shouldn’t have put it on my body in public. How stupid. How stupid…” etc. I spiraled. Quickly. All my work, all my positive self talk was destroyed from one small, innocent, small comment. Suddenly, I was back to being overly aware of every inch of my flawed body.

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I took this earlier that day–I stood up straight, tucked my belly in as far as I could, to show off the shirt and try to hide my body shape.

All this makes me think, what is it about being thin that has such a hold on so many of us? A few days before this, another child was talking about how James was still a tiny baby, because I call him a giant baby (he’s in the 99th percentile! Such a big boy!). He said, “He’s not a giant baby, he’s a tiny baby, but you all are giants (Vince and me). Someday James will grow up and be a giant, too.” Then he looked at us, and said to Vince, “But you’re skinny. Like me, I’m skinny, too.” He looked at me, and didn’t say anything, but the point was clear. I was not skinny, and that was not good.

Even a child knows that “skinny” is “good,” “not skinny” is “bad.” And that is messed up. 

When I was five years old, I remember worrying if I was thin enough. My mommy and daddy told me I was beautiful all the time, but still I thought, “Am I small enough? Will anyone ever love me?” That’s not OK.

This is where body dysmorphia starts, when we’re too young to know what’s normal and what’s not, and as parents, we need to be aware of this in our children, we need to teach them how to perceive ourselves and others, how to talk about bodies–their own and others–and how to love themselves, regardless of photos they see on Instagram or on television. I mean, even though my parents built me up and loved me and gave me all the encouragement a child could want, I still suffer from body dysmorphia and have my whole life. We have to be aware that our children may be suffering with this, too.

I’ve carried my body dysmorphia for as long as I can remember. Never have I not been aware of my “flaws,” of my body shape and size and weight, of my hair cut and color, of my makeup or lack thereof. I’ve never not worried about these things. And I am SICK of it. I’m tired of CONSTANTLY trying to hide my body, because I’m ashamed of it, because I’m OBSESSED and DISAPPOINTED with how I look.

Do I want to be thinner? Yes. I want to be able to fit in my old clothes and comfortably do the yoga poses I could before. And I’m not even sure if that’s because I think it’s healthier, or because to my body-dysmorphic-eyeballs think the photos of me then are more attractive and want that back.

I don’t have a point here, except, talk to your kids. Talk to your spouses. Talk to your friends. We have to help each other not fall into this pit of self hatred and comparison and all around ickiness.

YOU are beautiful.

YOU are wonderful.

YOU are ENOUGH.

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I took this earlier that day–I stood up straight, tucked my belly in as far as I could, to show off the shirt and try to hide my body shape.
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I took this earlier that day–I stood up straight, tucked my belly in as far as I could, to show off the shirt and try to hide my body shape.

James’s Surgery Update #1

I thought I’d have all this time after James’s surgery to write blogs and keep everyone updated on how he was doing, since surely he would be quieter and more subdued after his big event. However, I haven’t had time because James has been doing SO wonderfully since the day we got home!

As I said in my last post, we got to leave the hospital a whole day early. The doctor sent us home with Oxycodone (a very, very low dose) and Tylenol for pain management. I foresaw having to hold my son as he hurt, counting the seconds until his next pain med. I thought I’d have a baby who only wanted to be held and who only wanted to cuddle, because he felt so bad. But from the day we got home, this kid was ready to roll!

The first week of recovery, he had to sleep propped up on a wedge. This was the only thing that seemed to irritate him. He didn’t sleep well, because he couldn’t roll over, and he would wake up every hour or so, but a week after surgery we met with Dr. Liau, and he said James was doing so well, we didn’t need the wedge anymore! He also stopped needed pain meds shortly after that, so I was able to slowly wean him from the narcotic so he didn’t suffer any withdrawals.

Since he’s been sleeping flat, he’s back to our same wild, sweet, loud, weird, loving boy. Unless he’s sleeping, he constantly wants to be moving. He buzzes his lips, rolls r’s with his tongue, growls like a bear (or a zombie–the zombaby), screams, laughs, babbles, and fake-coughs for attention. Aside from a head that’s a slightly different shape, and a cool zig-zag scar (that’s healing beautifully) across his scalp, you’d never know he underwent major surgery less than a month ago.

Tomorrow, James turns 9 months old. On this day last month, just before his 8 month milestone, I was terrified, because I knew that in less than a week, my baby would have to go through something so scary and so difficult, and to be honest, I was really afraid he might die. I didn’t voice that before the surgery, but it swirled around my brain every day. I was scared something unforeseen would happen and he would have brain damage, or contract some other disease or illness from a blood transfusion, or any number of wild, crazy things. And now I’m sitting here, typing this, while he rolls around in his walker, chasing our cats, buzzing his lips and talking up a storm.

So many of you prayed for us, thought about us, sent us good thoughts and energy, and I will, for the rest of my life, be grateful. I’m so grateful for all of you, for James’s doctors and nurses and everyone who dealt with him at Kentucky Children’s Hospital. So thank you all, again. Thank God for my son’s rapid recovery and relative health! This is all more than I ever could have hoped for when I found out he needed this surgery. Life is good.

Here are two photos of James before his surgery. The first is from just over a month before surgery; the second is from a couple of days before surgery:

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Here are two photos of James after his surgery. The first is from the day after we came home (5 days post-op); the second is from two days ago (just under a month post-op):

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6: Intensive Week (Part 1)

Normally I post one blog for each month of training, but given the fact that this last month of training lasted 9 days, rather than 2, I’m gonna split this post up.

The last nine days feel like weeks instead of days–and I mean that in a really lovely way, not in a “oh my God, that took FOREVER” kind of way. They were just nine very long, intense days, and I’m outrageously thankful for every single second.

There are so many stories to share, so many jokes, tears, conversations, photos, and thoughts. A lot of those things need to stay in my heart and head (for now), but in the meantime, I want to share some things about this week here.

During this last week of YTT, I learned exactly how amazing all my classmates are. I’ve known since day one that they were all incredible people, but now I also know that they’re incredible teachers. I got to take many of their classes (for some, it was their first class ever!), and each and every one was amazing and beautifully reflected the person teaching it. I feel honored and blessed to have been able to be part of that. I also got the opportunity to have longer conversations with people who I normally didn’t get to talk to a whole lot (when you only see people for one weekend a month, and during that weekend you take class after class after class and then go home, it’s hard to get in good convo time with everyone), which was amazing. It was crazy to fully realize for the first time what an extraordinary group I was privileged enough to be part of.

Right now, everything is still kind of a blur for me. Nine days filled with asana, studying, learning, asana, eating, drawing, meditating, pranayama, asana, tests, sidewalk chalk, medicine cards, asana, and lots of talking has currently overwhelmed my brain (in a lovely, happy way). I want to sit down later and write out individual stories, individual moments of clarity and beauty to share with you, but for now, I’ll just say this:

The Om Place class of 2014 is one of the most incredible, beautiful groups of people I’ve ever been part of. The energy each and every person shared with me over the last nine days and over the last six months is something I’ll never forget, and will carry with me into my teaching and into my life. I’m grateful beyond words to know each and every person that I learned with, and wish each and every one of them the very best of luck in their lives, in their teaching, and in their practice.

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Stay tuned for some individual Intensive Week lessons and adventures!