23 August 2017No Comments

Potty yoga

Rip off the bandaid

A little over a month ago we started potty training our son. A friend had just gone through the process with her slightly younger boy. She lent me a book by the (obviously American) expert potty trainer and author, Andrea Olson. It came highly recommended and was said to offer “non-coercive wisdom from first-hand experience teaching infant potty training for the past 5 years.”

My friend's words to me were: “It makes a lot of sense to me. When I quit smoking, I had to go cold turkey as well. It doesn't work if you gradually taper off to zero cigarettes. You just have to get it over with and rip off the bandaid.”

That's the strategy Andrea Olson promotes. Once you've taken the child out of his or her diapers, that option is no longer available (except maybe during the night). So one fine day, you tell your child that he or she is a big boy or girl now. Like all grown ups he or she will from now on sit on the potty to pee or poop, which you are to encourage playfully and cheerfully.

The potty journey

So the three of us embarked on the potty journey, excited that we would soon no longer have to change diapers several times a day. The book promises that every child older than eighteen month is ready to be potty trained. The statistics are indeed interesting: Until the fifties every child there were hardly any children still in diapers by the age of eighteen months. That's not surprising considering that was the era before washing machines and pampers, when you still had to boil and wash cloth diapers in your kitchen sink.

Andrea Olson guarantees that if you stick to the three-part plan – namely naked training at home first, then small outings with clothes, then normal life with clothes – the child will be fully potty trained in one month tops. Some children may even get the hang of it in a week or ten days.

So much for the pep talk.

Naked training was not a problem. We were spending a few days on a remote alp and mostly outdoors anyway. I have to admit that I was surprised how quickly my son understood that peepee was to go into the potty. But after more than a week, when we were already putting the naked training behind us, there was no progress with the poop. Every single time it went into his pants. Try washing poop out of toddler pants when your sense of smell is heightened due to prenatal hormones. A true test of a mother's love.

Like the book admonishes, we tried not to be annoyed or reprimand the child. But honestly, it's hard to keep your composure and compassion when dealing with a whole lot of shit. (Pardon my French).

Take the pressure off

After two weeks my husband and I were frustrated and somewhat clueless. I decided to call a friend who works as a parental advisor and has helped us out several times before. She listened to my detailed report and then said: “Why don't you just take the pressure off a bit?”

I felt a pang of guilt. My son is an extremely easy-going child. He rarely makes a fuss and adapts well in every situation. But if there's one thing he doesn't respond well to it's being forced to adapt too quickly. He needs time. Even when he arrived in this world, it took him a few weeks to find his bearings. He needed time to establish his sleeping and eating rhythms and settle in. After that, he was fine.

I knew he doesn't respond well to pressure. And after all, who can go when they're being rushed? Didn't Freud already connect the anal phase to the ability of letting go? I felt embarrassed that I hadn't thought of it.

So we eased up. We let him wear a diaper in the morning until he had done his number two. We asked him if he wanted the diaper whenever he felt the tummy ache that means he has to go. And within a few days, poop started going into the potty.

I think of all the yoga teachers I have met on my path who think that sometimes students need a little push. That may be true. It can be helpful to have your boundaries pushed a bit and try something new, like an arm balance or an inversion. However, I don't think that it works for every type of personality. Like my son, I don't like to be forced when I don't feel safe.

Is it possible to let go under pressure? I'm not sure. Sometimes we need to be eased in. Sometimes, all pressure does is achieve the opposite result.

There's no golden rule

Our culture teaches us that it's always advisable to rip off the bandaid. Quick and painless. But is it really? Is that strategy taking into account that we are not all made of the same stuff? Does that consider what we might be going through at any given time and that we all have a different history?

Or put in into the context of yoga class: Encouraging someone to overcome their fear of headstand by just doing it can be empowering for the student. But it can also cause them to be re-traumatized.

This is not the first time I liken being a mature adult to being a good parent (also to yourself). A good parent knows their child. They assess the situation and do what is called for and beneficial under the circumstances.

Unfortunately, this may mean that we can't rely on the same golden rule all the time. We have to stay awake and observant to gauge the right dosage. It has a lot to do with taking responsibility for ourselves, instead of applying what we heard is supposed to work. Ripping off the bandaid is not always the way to go.

I believe that yoga hands us all the tools to evaluate what the best treatment plan is. If we are willing to listen and respond appropriately, we may well discover that what was stuck will start to flow again.

18 August 2017No Comments

It’s about the experience

*one of my favorite ways to feel sensation these days: warrior two with a forward fold, keeping the right knee from falling inwards.


Forced to my knees

I haven't been able to practice much for weeks now. The first trimester of pregnancy is a bitch. I'm sorry, there's no other way to say it. At least, it seems to be for me. Morning sickness, also known as nausea that lasts all day, coupled with fatigue have forced me to my knees. But there's a silver lining. Because after more than one year of working non-stop and rarely taking a breather, I was finally forced to slow down.

Having reached week fourteen, the other day I was finally able to practice for a luxurious half hour. I enjoyed the feeling of stretching my muscles after a prolonged period of forced Savasana (corpse pose). I could feel my connective tissue creaking like a door that hasn't been opened in a while.

I thought to myself: Where have I been? And I didn't mean these last weeks of low blood pressure and retching. I was thinking of all these months of throwing my work-life-balance to the winds. How many times have I just rushed through poses, hardly able to stay for five breaths? How many times have I practiced just to get it over with? How many times have I been physically in a pose but elsewhere with my thoughts?

There are times when I doubt that yoga can still capture my attention: Maybe I should find something else to do recreationally. Teaching yoga is what I do for a living. It's almost everywhere, every waking moment. Maybe I need something new in order to be fully absorbed by it.

It's about the experience within

But one of my teachers often used to say: Don't go horizontal, go vertical. When you think you've seen it all, don't look around you, go deeper. I was reminded of his words during this first practice after some time. Even though my son was playing next to me and chattering away, I was in it, not next to it. I was immersed in the experience. I enjoyed every breath, even if the poses were strenuous after this time of lethargy.

I'm amazed that this could happen to me. Most yogis are sensation junkies, and I'm no exception. We love to experience the stretch, the pull, the opening. Letting ourselves feel sensation has the power to stop the thoughts from going in circles. It's the most recreative thing. I'm surprised that I've lost touch with that. And it's not the first time either.

Even though I came to yoga after twenty years of dancing and already had the coordination and flexibility, it was still a challenge. I had to work hard on building core and upper body strength and stability. Yoga is quiet, sutble work. I learned to focus on the inner workings of the body and mind. Learning to truly listen was a revelation to me.

And because it was so life-changing, I am surprised that connecting with the body can sometimes move into the background. Especially when I have always advocated that yoga is about the experience on the inside, not about getting better and bendier on the outside.

Why do we lose sight of the experience?

Something tells me that this can happen to all of us. Sometimes we turn into a yoga-robot and just go through the motions. We all lead busy lives or become lazy or distracted. It is easy for our yoga practice to become just another item to check off on our to do list.

For most of this year I was working non-stop and feeling weighed down by responsibility. Because yoga is what I do for a living I had to do a little bit, just to prep for classes. But my heart wasn't in it. Which now feels like a loss. Responsibility takes away from creativity or simply from the experience.

So I find myself being grateful for the nausea and my limbs that feel like lead. In a way, it was lucky there was something to slow me down. Now I can take in the world again. Particularly the microcosm that helps me cope with the macrocosm around me.

22 June 2017No Comments

Always take the trip

I usually don't read any parenting advice blogs. Recently, however, I saw an article that appealed to me. It was called “Always Take The Trip.” In other words, don't worry about the cost and the journey and the hassle of packing (and not forgetting) diapers, sunscreen, stuffed animals and pacifiers. Just go.

Bonding

The author argues that families need time away from housework, homework and job responsiblities. Like any relationship, family bonds need to be fostered and cared for in order to bloom. According to the author of “Always take the trip,” it's not only the fun times that strengthen the bond. Spending time together outside the comfort zone of our own home and neighborhood is trying. But it's another way we bond, by going through the good and the bad together.

I had almost forgotten about the article. Last Thursday, however, I spontaneously decided the three of us should take the train down to Como for the weekend. In my usual brisk fashion I organized a place to stay, bought train tickets and sent my husband out to buy a picnic and yes, diapers.

Outside the comfort zone

Everything went well. With no schedule and no obligations, we just strolled around the town and enjoyed the italian vibe. We were looking forward to our journey home, which we had upgraded to first class. Right before heading to the station we turned into a gift store and completely forgot the time.

By the time we stepped out onto the street again it was only twenty minutes until our scheduled departure. We missed a turn and it got even later. So we ended up running up the hill in the thirty degree heat to make our train. And make it, we did.

For a moment I was angry at Nico. He's usually the one who's supposed to be in charge of directions. For some reason I also thought he was keeping an eye on the time while I was buying notebooks and paper garlands. But just before I started sputtering a reproach, I remembered the article.

It had definitely been a moment outside the comfort zone. The moment when you think you're going to miss the train and you're going to have to wait and rearrange the whole trip. With a two and a half year old child in the scorching heat. And you have no control over what's going to happen.

Being a team

But wasn't this another moment outside the comfort zone that proves to me what a good team we are?

At the bottom of the hill in front of the station we split up. It only took two words from me and Nico was racing up the steps to retrieve our suitcase. I was dashing up the long way around, pushing the stroller. We met with a few minutes to spare in the main hall. Perfectly in time.

We are usually pretty good at dividing our duties. Nico has an excellent sense of direction, I'm good with planning ahead and thinking of all the contingencies. Only that day I forgot about the time for a moment. For a moment my brain surrendered to being on vacation. Which is actually a very good sign.

So why be mad about a little jog in the Italian afternoon heat? The sprint was totally out of the comfort zone. One of those things you know you will be able to laugh about in the future.

It reminded me of all the difficult circumstances we have braved together. After four years together it may well look like we have never seen the comfort zone from the inside. We met and I moved to Taiwan three months later. Nico came to visit and I got pregnant. We became parents after a very short time of cohabitation. We both got new and challenging jobs within the last two years.

From the outside, our life together looks like one single roller coaster ride. Yet on the inside, we are always team. And while one of us may lapse from time to time, we still make it. Even on the rare occasions when we have to run full out our timing is always perfect.

8 June 2017No Comments

The typical yoga teacher

The other day I was sitting on a park bench with a friend and fellow yoga teacher. She was thinking out loud and debating whether she should cut back on her part-time job and take on more yoga gigs. Then she turns to me and says: “I don't dare because, you know, I'm just not a typical yoga teacher. I don't feel legitimate.”

My jaw dropped. What on earth is a typical yoga teacher? Because I'm certainly not one of them.

Next thing I know, she tells me how some new yoga teacher moms are doing feverish research into vaccination. Because apparently they're on a mission to find the one correct yogic way to do this. Which is not to vaccinate at all or if you must, then only after age one and a half.

What it takes to be legit

A few moments passed and I started to grasp the deeper meaning of this. Indeed, there are many unspoken rules to being a yoga teacher. There's a lot of shoulding out there. You would think that these rules derive from what students expect from their yoga teacher. But come to think of it, it's the yoga teachers who have set the bar so vertiginously high for each other.

I started thinking about my own situation. The pressure to be and behave a certain way has definitely increased over the years, even though I have always refused to change in order to fit in. Since I have added “mother” to my job description, the dos and don'ts seems to have multiplied.

Here's a little taste of the high ideals we – the yoga teacher guild – impose:You should be at least a vegetarian, if not a vegan. You should eat lots of healthy meals, enriched with super foods, and ideally post photos of them on social media. You should show off your inversions and other contortions on Instagram. Don't forget the hashtags.

If you become a mom, you should breast feed your child for at least a year. After giving birth, you should stay home for as long as you possibly can. Daycare before age one is frowned upon.

You should know about herbal remedies and globuli, because God forbid the child should ingest any Western medicine. You should always be calm and collected. Even with a toddler going through the terrible two phase.

Truth time

I am not vegan. We refrain from eating meat at home. But if I'm a guest and someone offers me meat I won't turn it down. I am fond of the Ayurvedic idea that if someone prepares food for you, it's an offering made with love. So it will be healing.

I only nursed my son until he was four months old. I went back to work because I was self-employed back then. I had no paid maternity leave in Switzerland because I had previously been abroad for too long.

Also, I experienced intense surges of aggression that were directed at my husband. I was up nursing during the night and he was slumbering peacefully by my side. I will be honest, I couldn't handle the (biological) unfairness. I knew that if I didn't gradually start weaning my relationship would pay for it.

So I chose me. I chose the way that made me more relaxed about everything.


I'm not telling my story to make my choices sound good. I am telling it to make a point. If you look behind closed doors, you realize that every situation is different. We cannot apply the same rule to everyone out there.

Being a mother to yourself

Yes, the decisions I have made seem selfish, but were they? They have kept me healthy, balanced and sane. They enabled me to function. Physical and psychological well-being are essential to being a yoga teacher and a mother. Or to anyone who wants to be at service.

I am aware that many people may disagree with me. However, these were the right decisions at that time. I may opt for a different path today. And yet for another one tomorrow.

As yoga teachers, we encourage our students to become inquisitive and observant in order to respond to what they need. And how many times do we speak about the kind of compassion that begins with yourself? “Don't push in your Asana practice, respect your limits, be gentle with yourself.” Yet when it comes to our own decisions, we have the impulse to follow the guidebook. We think that there are some golden rules that can't be bent.

What yoga teaches

About a decade ago, yoga changed my life completely with one simple tool: It has taught me to gaze inwards, make out what is there and react appropriately. When I was newly pregnant, I was still a vegetarian. But one night, I was craving fish. I didn't even know I was pregnant yet. But a voice inside was telling me I needed animal protein.


Any mindfulness practice, not just yoga, gives us the chance to pause, listen and be honest about what would be beneficial at that particular moment. Not what made sense three months ago. Not what we believed in when we were going through the rebellious phase. Only what is wholesome right here, right now.

For me the phrase “typical yoga teacher” implies that there is a right and a wrong way to do things. I might be biased, but it feels to me like we have to fit into that category in order to be a good yoga teacher. Or a loving mom, or a respectable human being. This also means that anything outside of that spectrum is not okay and not good enough.

And how is that compassionate? How is that typical for a yoga teacher?

17 April 2017No Comments

The Courage To Be Frail

Today I went to see my godchild. She is 6 days old – a little snip of a tiny human. A little bundle, utterly helpless, yet with the power to make me speechless (that doesn't happen often). I was touched to see the little family – now of four – and honored to be one of the first visitors. I've never been a godmother before. I never dreamed it would make me feel so special, to know a dear friend wants me to be a significant part of her daugher's life.

And yet, I came away with a sense of sadness and longing. I didn't understand. Could it be that I was jealous? But I didn't feel jealous. My heart is full to the brim with happiness for them and gratitude for my own family. Could it be that, my son being two and a half years old now, I was starting to sense the pressure of society's dictate that a family is incomplete with less than two children? I'm happy to admit that this dictate may be a product of my imagination. But seriously, people always ask whether you're thinking of a second. And if they don't ask with words, they ask with their interrogating looks. But I have never felt rushed before. Our son was anything but planned, and I have always felt it was only natural for me to take my time before I might potentially decide to do this again. Or is it just my biological clock ticking? It has never ticked before. Some women have always known that they wanted children. I never knew. It just happened to me. It was the best thing that ever happened to me, but honestly, I never heard a tick tock.

So then why was I sad? I felt somehow deficient. Like there was something I should have done, but I missed my boat. Then I realized what I felt. The very thing I keep going on and on about in my prenatal yoga classes: We need to allow ourselves to soften and become vulnerable. We need to give ourselves time and space, because it is an incredibly delicate transition. And we need to be frail, to open up and let that little being get under our skin. And how long has it been since I have allowed myself to be anything but strong and on top of things? Ages.

Again, maybe this is my imagination, and I just keep blaming it on society. But I do feel like the world expects a young working mom to perform and keep all the balls up in the air. In Switzerland, the time that is legally set for maternity leave is 14 weeks. (There is no legal obligation for an employer to offer paternity leave, by the way). So we get a couple of weeks before delivery and a few weeks after that to rest and nurse and – you know – do the warm and mushy thing called mothering. For that time, the world will cut us some slack. Then you put your tough shell back on and go back out.

Don't get me wrong. I very much enjoyed going back to work. It was wonderful to slip back into the skin of the yoga teacher. I'm so grateful for the stimuli my work offers me. And yet, I can't help resent that we are not allowed more time to soften, to prepare for the biggest change in a person's life and to just be for a while. Experts say, it takes as long as the pregnancy lasted for a full recovery. Yes, that would be nine months to a year. In Taiwan, many women quit the moment the stick turns blue. The process of transformation starts then. Not two weeks before giving birth when you can no longer sleep and have to pee every half hour. And I believe it is a process that deserves more than just five minutes of our attention.

So, I am sad. I didn't cut myself enough slack. I was self-employed. Six weeks after giving birth I was teaching again. And you know what? I cannot blame society. Being a mom means being a lionness as well. While we may feel vulnerable during pregnancy and shortly after giving birth, we also develop some fierce protective instincts. We simply have to gather the courage to say: “I want this time off. I don't have a problem being the opposite of a superwoman for once in my life. I want time to settle into this new life situation, to be there for my family.” I cannot blame anyone else for not cutting myself more slack. I have a voice. I could have roared.

And maybe I'm afraid there won't be another chance.

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All rights reserved | AGB| Kontakt & Newsletter

© Copyrights 2019-2021 | Elisa Malinverni | All rights reserved | AGB | Kontakt & Newsletter

© Copyrights 2019-2021 | Elisa Malinverni
All rights reserved | AGB | Kontakt & Newsletter