Writing

The Summer of Tough Love: 5 Things I Learned

After months of planning, our August trip to Europe, a first for our family, was coming together. Until it unraveled on the day I was supposed to depart. Completely.

No trip. An injured son. A critically ill dog. And my father-in-law Paul passed away. Not the summer we had anticipated. Yet this was what we got.

At about this time, you might be feeling bad for my family. Don’t. This was how things were meant to be. This summer tested my ability to change and accept things that I can’t do anything about. I learned more than I could have imagined and I thank Paul for his part in this. Here are my summer takeaways:

  1. Be grateful – every minute of every hour of every day. You are on this earth for a limited time. You’ve got one shot. Make the most of it. If you don’t like your job, quit. If you are unhappy in a relationship, leave. If you live in the country but always felt more like a city gal, move. If you love your family, hold them tight and spend more quality time together. Be outdoors. Take long walks. Eat healthy food. Love big.
  2. Trust – that your difficulties help lead you to clarity. I dealt with heartache, pain and monumental stuff this summer – all at once. But, this forced my family to come together. Not only that, it caused me to pause, re-evaluate my priorities and make some tough decisions. I may have ultimately made these same decisions, but not this quickly.
  3. Have faith  – that things happen for a reason, usually. Sometimes this won’t be apparent immediately and other times you’ll know the reason right off the bat.
  • Many examples of this occurred this summer. Here are a couple: I was supposed to be in Europe August 6-23. Joel arrived in London one day earlier, on August 5. We got the call that Paul was going on life support in California on August 6. As stressful and expensive as it was, Joel was able to immediately book tickets from London to LA, and I never got on a plane to Europe. I booked a flight to LA instead. We arrived hours before Paul passed away, and Joel got to say goodbye to his dad. Joel had a feeling that his father, who had been ill for more than a year, would pass away during our trip or right before. He was right (listen to your gut: another blog post, another time.) But, here’s the kicker: This was the first time since I’ve known my husband that he blocked out two and a half solid weeks for a vacation. He parceled out his work, had no projects pending. Didn’t even take a computer with him. Now he had two weeks with his slate clear to say goodbye to his father, spend time with his mother and deal with his grief.
  • The day after Paul died, I had a bit of a meltdown under all the stress. I decided to book a flight home two days after the funeral even though Joel wanted to stay in California longer. I just felt a strong feeling that I needed to get home. Ethan picked me up at the airport. The dog was in the car and she wasn’t acting like herself. She hadn’t eaten all day and was lethargic. I took one look at her and knew something was wrong. The next morning, I took her to the vet and found out she had severe anemia. The vet told me he’d call the next morning with her test results. Three hours after I got home, the dog looked worse. I made a gut decision to take her to the animal hospital. She was diagnosed with immune mediated hemolytic anemia (IMHA), a critical and rapid-onset autoimmune disease of the red blood cells and marrow. She was hanging on for her life. Nine days and two blood transfusions later, Phoebe came home. We’re giving her six meds, including three powerful immune suppressants. She is weak and has a long road to recovery ahead of her, but she is improving and getting stronger daily. If I didn’t come home that day, my dog would have died. I am sure of it. And, if we had gone to Europe and the dog was in boarding, she would have died. I am sure of this too. I believe that Paul passed away at a time when Joel could be fully present and when we could be home in time to save Phoebe’s life.

4. Believe – that it’s ok if you don’t understand why things happen all the time. Choose to see the good and know that your situation is meant to point you in a direction that you never would have taken otherwise. Here’s an example:

  • Noah was looking forward to focusing on his dance training this summer at Boston Ballet. But he broke his ankle in July and instead had to sit out for the better part of the training. He was going to need surgery to remove the broken bone and we scheduled this for the end of August. With his type of break, he could walk – just not dance. So, this way (or so we thought), he could go on the trip to Europe and have surgery after that. Instead, he ended up not dancing, not going to Europe and waiting all summer for surgery. He also grew – a lot. I am convinced he needed a break, his body needed a break. Not only this, he is more determined and focused now than ever before. He will return to Boston Ballet in a few weeks and I have a feeling he will dance with renewed energy, focus and commitment. I also know that this injury will open new doors for him. I’ll just have to wait for those doors to appear so he can open them.

5. Change – is the only constant. Know that there are some things you can control and others you can’t. Know the difference. I learned this big time this summer.

Oh, tomorrow is September 1. If you live in New England, it’s the unofficial start of fall. Hallelujah.

Categories: being a mother, challenges, Etcetera, get real, letting go, musings, Summer, That's Life!, Truth, Writing | Tags: , , , , | 12 Comments

And One Day It Happened……

About a month ago, I was talking to my oldest son, Ethan, on the phone. He was nearing the end of his freshman year at Northeastern University as a journalism and film studies major. Usually our conversations consisted of something like this:

Me: How are you?

Ethan: Fine

Me: What’s going on?

Ethan: Not much. Same old: school, improv

Me: Do you think we can get together soon for dinner? I’ll be in town next Wednesday.

Ethan: Maybe. I’m pretty busy. Can I let you know next week?

Me: Sure. Well, just called to say ‘hello’. Talk soon?

Ethan: Sure. Bye mom.

But this particular conversation was different. Ethan was working on a particularly challenging story assignment. We spent about half an hour discussing the story, his angle, his interviews, how difficult it was to find the right people to talk to, and how he came up with his idea to begin with. THEN, wait for it……he actually listened to my advice. Now, granted, I am a journalist and sometimes actually know what I’m talking about. But still, this was MONUMENTAL. And, then….we had a two-way conversation about a common interest.

Flash forward to two weeks ago: Ethan was about to leave for a five-week journalism semester in Spain. I was leaving the house before he would be picked up for the airport, so we went through his check-list to make sure he had everything for the trip. As this happened, my young adult college journalism life flashed before me. I was in Spain this exact time my freshman year in college and I did a similar journalism semester in London as well (albeit with typewriters and no cell phones). I said goodbye to Ethan and saw his eyes welling up with tears. He gave me a big hug and then, a second hug. I told him how proud I was of him and he promised we’d talk via Face Time and chat via instant messenger (which we’ve done several times). I said goodbye as I left the house, holding back my own tears of pride.

Since Ethan has been in Spain, he has started his own blog, written his first article for the NU Journalism Abroad news site, (a brilliant story on the controversy surrounding an abandoned bullfighting ring — you should all read it!) and is now en route from Barcelona to Madrid where he will work on more stories and blog posts. Since he’s been gone, we’ve talked about his stories and blog posts as if we were peers.

And then it hit me: My son is an adult.

Not a young teenager who has some mature thoughts and seems like an adult sometimes. He’s a real, bona-fide adult. How the hell did that happen? Yes, he’s 19 years old and at some point I knew he’d be a grownup. But, like most parents, there comes a time when it hits us smack in face. That time has arrived.

As parents, we try to raise our children in the best way possible. In our family that meant, above all else, teaching our kids how to make wise choices, pursue their passions, be kind to others, and engage with the world. I understood that my kids may grow up to be like their parents, or turn out to be nothing like us.

But when you see yourself in your adult children, even a little bit, it’s both eerie and enlightening.

Ethan, you see, did his best to defy everything that I was about. Yoga and health food topped the list. Although there were likely other reasons for his aversion to yoga and vegetables, I think he wanted nothing to do with my choices because he didn’t want to be like his mother. I’m sure you can all relate. I mean who wants to be just like their mother, especially teenage boys?

Up until Ethan was about nine years old, I was a full-time freelance journalist. He was young so I doubt he remembers much about what I was doing locked in my office writing. What hits more close to home for him is my second “career”: a yoga studio owner. This consumed most nights and weekends of his childhood. So, reflecting back on this (and the fact that he probably thought it was a little strange that his mom also practiced and taught yoga while his friends’ moms were lawyers, bankers, and doctors), it seems well, a bit normal, that he would steer clear of my career and interests.

This, my friends, makes it all the most fascinating to me that my son is choosing my other passion as a possible career: writing. He didn’t witness me working in a newsroom or burning the midnight oil writing stories on deadline (I did most of this before he was born). I never pressured him to go this route. Yet here he is. And here’s the uncanny coincidence: As I watched Ethan make choices for himself, I started making new career choices as well. Our discussions about writing caused me to pause and realize that I truly missed writing. So, as Ethan discovers his path, I am creating a new chapter for myself.

Could it be that I am following in my son’s footsteps?

Categories: being a mother, College, Etcetera, get real, growing up, journalism, letting go, mother, musings, On the Road, parenting, Philosophy, raising boys, raising sons, That's Life!, Travel, Truth, Writing, Yoga | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Careening Down a Dangerous Path

So, I’m perusing through my Facebook feed the other day and I see this post:

“Sometime soon, we may reach a point where half the women in America will be teaching yoga to the other half…”

An interesting quip from a man I worked with at a California newspaper in the early 90’s.  To my knowledge, he’s a PR executive and not a yoga teacher. Hmmm, even non-yogis realize things are out of control and there’s no end in sight.

I touched on this in late 2013 when I wrote an article that evoked much discussion in the yoga community. My honest reflection resonated with many, ticked off some, and got people thinking.

Icicles on studioSo, here I am watching the snow fall outside my window in Massachusetts. It’s been about two years since I traveled to 40 cities in the US and Canada in the course of 15 months. I got a realistic pulse of the yoga landscape in America and hit classes in strip malls, YMCAs, intimate settings, large chain studios, gyms, and pretty much every place in-between. When I returned home, I reassessed where I wanted to go with my studio, Breathe Joy Yoga, which sits behind my house in the woods.  After witnessing the state of the yoga industry, I knew it was time for a change. I was done operating a full-blown studio where part of the job was competing for yoga newbies who are more concerned about sweating, low prices and convenience than immersing themselves in the practice. So, instead, I focus on teaching two to four classes a week at Breathe Joy Yoga. Everyone is welcome and every class is engaging and unique as I never have a yoga pose playlist prepared. I also oversee Pretzel Kids® trainings and classes, and I have returned to freelance journalism. Once in a while, I offer PR and marketing consulting services to other yoga professionals trying to navigate this rocky landscape.

So why revisit this topic? Well, because we’re no better off than we were two years ago. In fact, we’re much worse off. And this, my friends, affects how and where we practice yoga, as well as the integrity of our community as a whole.

Today, I would guess 30-50% of yoga studios offer 200-hour yoga teacher trainings. It’s no surprise as these courses generate fast cash and help pack studio classes. Now, don’t get me wrong. Studio owners deserve to earn a living and hopping on the teacher training gravy train is a sure-fire way to ensure that they do so. There is nothing inherently wrong with this. But, here’s the problem: As long as students continue to drink the Koolaid served at the closest yoga studio, teacher trainings will multiply like bunnies in a highly unregulated industry. Seems a little harsh, I know. But let’s peel off some more layers here.

DSCF0442Yoga in America isn’t what it used to be and we, as a yoga community, should stand up in Tadasana and take notice. It was only 11 years ago when I opened Breathe Joy Yoga. I offered a comprehensive teacher training course as much out of need as desire. There were simply no programs in my area. The market wasn’t saturated and skilled yoga teachers were in high demand.

Flash forward to today: If you throw a ball out a window in any major US city, it will hit one yoga teacher on the head and bounce onto another instructor’s asana. Taking classes and teaching yoga is the “in” thing and many students wear rose-colored glasses and think that, if they become a yoga teacher, they too can open a successful studio (just find an empty corner, start a Facebook page, and viola!) or at least teach a few classes a week (good luck finding a studio without a two-page list of subs). The plot thickens. Many still think they can quit their day jobs and make big bucks teaching yoga. Now, I know…..some of you are thinking I sound cynical or this is just sour grapes. But, let me tell you right here and now: I sure as heck don’t have sour grapes. I love to practice and teach yoga. And, I enjoyed the challenge of turning a small, community-supported studio into a thriving business. I wouldn’t have chosen any other life or livelihood for the eight years I ran a yoga studio full-time.

Here’s another thing: I love that yoga is now readily available. I just wish we were more responsible about this mushrooming growth. One of the pitfalls of working and practicing in an unregulated industry is that many businesses offer yoga classes and have no idea whether their own yoga instructors are skilled. A certificate from a crash course is sometimes all a health club needs to hire a teacher. It’s even become commonplace for prospective teachers to “audition.”  Here’s a common scenario: A club owner sits through a slate of “auditions” and then, regardless of whether this “casting director” knows the difference between yoga and Pilates, a yoga teacher who fits the “part” is selected from the lot.

And then there are master classes. What defines a master class? Well, nothing really. At least not anymore. Any newly-minted, recent 200-hour graduate can throw together a workshop and call it a master class. Scratch that. No 200-hour certificate is necessary as anyone can teach a master class. It certainly sounds impressive and many students take the bait, especially when they see this so-called expert on Instagram striking a perfect pose. Our industry has run amuck here. In my opinion, there are only a small handful of teachers who should be considered “masters” in any field. Yoga is no exception.

About now I’m probably pissing off some of you. But, put your egos aside for a moment. I’m saying it like it is. Satya for ya in its truest sense.

To that end, I’m going to tell you a story that may help illustrate where our industry is headed. I’m warning you: It’s a doozy.

A couple of months ago I received a pitch for a workshop from an out-of-town teacher whom I had never met. I usually only offer workshops taught by experienced teachers I know. This way, I feel comfortable about what I’m selling and confident that my students will take away something valuable from their time and financial investment. But, it sounded good so I decided to give it a go. The teacher sent me a description of the workshop for beginners, which would include backbends, arm balances and inversions. She then explained that the inversions would encompass variations of headstand, shoulder stand and maybe handstand. Further information indicated her method will help students reach happiness faster. Ok. Let’s stop right there. Reach happiness faster? By doing a headstand? Wow. Now you really got me going.

Call me crazy. Call me responsible. I don’t care. I had to put my foot down and question her proposal. Here’s our email chain:

The “teacher”: “Regarding inversions, I am skillfully trained to teach them in a very safe and attentive way. I realize that not a lot of instructors feel comfortable teaching them (and thus they go untaught which I believe is a shame), but I feel that if proper alignment is taught, modifications are given and safely precautions are taken, inversions are not only extremely beneficial but tangible to even the most beginner of yogis. (INSERT HERE THIS TEACHER’S STYLE, PURPOSEFULLY LEFT OUT) places a strong focus on inversions and without them, I wouldn’t stay true to its homage….”

I agree that inversions are beneficial, however, kicking our egos to the curb: Even with modifications and the best instructor in the world, my experience is that it’s impossible to watch everyone at the same time in a large room filled with upside-down beginners who you don’t know. I was getting squeamish just thinking about the possibility of someone falling over on my hardwood floor. I also wasn’t feeling too warm and fuzzy about a teacher who felt that, without teaching specific inversions, she was not staying true to her yoga lineage. I mean, c’mon, really? Aren’t there plenty of other asana choices out there? Um, yes.

Here’s how it ended peacefully as I was willing to give her the benefit of the doubt:

Me: So, here is my position: From a liability perspective, I feel it’s not responsible or safe for me to offer this at my studio.  I understand that you would prefer to stay true to your homage but I need to stay true to safety and health. Are you able to offer rabbit pose, basic tripod and/or modified shoulder stand with legs up in an “L” (like legs up the wall without the wall) as alternatives? Let me know your thoughts. Thanks again.”

She wrote back: I understand your concerns. Yet on the other hand I ‘respectively’ [sic] disagree.

That was that.

So let’s talk a little about homage and lineage. What does that even mean? Back in the heyday (meaning hundreds and even thousands of years ago – long before lululemon pants graced our yoga classes), yoga teachers were taught by true experts to pass down this ancient tradition.

Take my primary teacher, Diane Lagadec. Diane is the real deal. About to turn 71, Diane runs Maha Yoga Center in Bridgewater, Ma. and you can often find her in a safe backbend or inversion. She trained with Shri Khanna, who was one of the yogis who came to the states in the late ’60’s and early ’70’s to learn and teach.

“He came to Boston to complete a doctorate and while he was here he created a small ashram in a home in West Newton. He was friends with Yogi Desai, Dr. Mishra (also known as Swami Brahmananda Sarasvati), etc. We got to meet and learn from wonderful teachers. Shri was from the Maha Ananda Ashram in Simla, India. I studied with him for years,” said Diane.

I realize there’s no one path to anything, but I am fairly certain that enrolling in a 200-hour teacher training for a handful of weekends or taking classes in a hyped-up studio with packed classes and hotshot teachers is not going to help you reach nirvana faster. What to do? For starters, do your research.

If you practice yoga, inquire of yourself: Why am I choosing this teacher to guide me? Maybe you have no idea whether he/she is skilled. Maybe the time works for your schedule. Maybe the quality or safety of the class doesn’t matter to you. You still should ask.

If you’re considering enrolling in a teacher training, ask yourself:  Why do I want to take this course with these teachers at this studio?

If you’re a yoga teacher or studio owner, ask yourself: Why do I want to teach? Why do I want to run a 200-hour course? There is no right or wrong answer.

The point is: We should all be digging deep. Or, as we yogis say, it’s time to practice self-study, a.k.a. Svadhyaya.

I may be going out on a limb here but we are careening down a dangerous path. Literally. Yoga students are blowing out hips and shoulders regularly. I’m thinking Patanjali didn’t have this in mind. Take a look at the Yoga Sutras. Depending on your interpretation, only about five of the 196 sutras (II: 29 and II: 46-49) discuss anything to do with asana. Let’s sit on that for a while.

Robyn Parets, a journalist and yoga teacher, is founder of Pretzel Kids® and owner of Breathe Joy Yoga studio in Massachusetts. A former writer for the Los Angeles Times, Inc. Magazine Group, Investor’s Business Daily, and many other publications, Parets turned to yoga and meditation in 1999 after her life was interrupted by a neurological disorder. Bedridden for nearly two years with two children under four, Parets credits her dedicated practice with helping her gain back her health. She recently traveled across the country, documenting the changing yoga landscape along the way. Parets is now focusing on blogging, reconnecting, and creating her next chapter! Find inspiration at: www.awayfromom.net

 

Categories: business, business of yoga, Etcetera, get real, humor, journalism, Philosophy, That's Life!, Truth, Uncategorized, Writing, Yoga | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Frozen in Time

As I drove to a yoga class earlier this week,  in a hurry to make it there on time, I slowed down to a snail’s pace when I got to the school zone for a local elementary school. Sure, I had to slow down to 20 miles an hour as this is the speed limit. But, for a brief minute, everything slowed down, not just the speed on my speedometer.

Ethan and Noah

Ethan, left, Noah, right at about age 7 and 4

For a brief minute, it was as if my life was frozen in time. I watched the crossing guards channel the children into school and the parents walking with their children, who looked as if they were going to topple over underneath the weight of those heavy backpacks. I stared at one little girl with bright red hair and watched her trying to walk tall and proud with her books in tow. And then, for no more than five seconds, I locked eyes — out of my left driver’s side window — with an attentive father en route to school with his child. I quickly looked back to the road in front of me and then glanced to my left again. He was no longer looking my way but, rather, looking forward as he continued his slow and steady pace toward the school. It was as if he knew what I was thinking: Where did the time go? Wasn’t it just yesterday when I walked my once proud first-grader to school?

I was caught up in a trance-like state, only coming out of it when I realized I was no longer driving through the school zone and it was time to speed up again. But I wasn’t ready for speeding back up. I wanted to slow down again and walk my boys to school. My eyes got teary as I started to drive faster. When I hopped on the highway, I was back at the speed limit but I couldn’t let go of that father. Still can’t.

Today, I was on my way home and my eyes started tearing up again. I looked to my left and saw a large, bright orange sign: “Be Prepared to Stop.”  Workmen were on the street doing repairs. But I took it as a sign — my own personal sign. And, in case, I forget what this sign says, I can see it from my yard. Guess the universe wants me to keep seeing this sign.

Today, I drove past the parking lot at Sharon High School. I looked to my left and saw my son’s car (err, my car) parked in its usual spot, covered with dirt. My eyes teared up.

Ethan and Noah laughing

my little boys!

I looked out at the women in my yoga class this week and realized I have lived a whole phase of my life (their lives too) with them. When I started teaching this group, our kids went to Cottage Street Elementary school together. Now our kids are either adults or almost adults. We are empty nesters or almost there. And we sure as heck aren’t meeting at the entrance to school to pick up our children and talk about the upcoming school fair.

One could say I am turning into a sentimental mess. Or, going through a phase. Or, realizing that I’m not 30 anymore and time just sort of sped up while my eyes were closed. Or, all of the above.

Ethan Senior portrait

Ethan’s senior picture

In less than a month, my oldest son Ethan is graduating from high school. Next week, he turns 18 and I go get my grey hair covered.  He is taking AP tests today so I drove Noah, who just turned 15, to high school. We were talking and I caught him rolling his eyes at me. My first instinct was to say, “Why did you do that? Was that necessary?” But I said nothing. He’s a typical teenage boy and I am a typical teenager’s mom: I think I’m hip and cool (do they even say those words anymore?) but I am really a 46-year-old mom trying hard to hold fast to memories and my little boys.

In yoga, we all talk about “being present” and “living in the present.” Today, it hit home that the “present” goes by way too fast. We get one chance to do it right “in the present” and then that chance is gone, forever. All we have left is the past and future and we’re not supposed to dwell on that, right? But this week I am struggling to let go and thinking of all the things I should have done better. I know — that’s not productive or healthy. But I’m only human.

Here’s the truth. The gosh-darned human truth. My truth……I am afraid to let go. I am scared out of my mind. I write this as my eyes well up with tears. I am afraid to let my son go to Northeastern University in August. I am afraid for him to move out on his own and begin his adult life. And it’s not because I don’t think he’ll succeed or be ok. I know he will do just great in whatever he sets out to do in life.

It’s because I don’t know if I’LL be ok. There, I said it. I wrote it.

Up until this week, I thought I was fine with Ethan graduating and moving on. I couldn’t possibly be more proud of him. But now, I am reduced to a tearful mess. Ethan and I haven’t always got along in his high school years. Maybe it’s because we are so much alike — both headstrong and opinionated but yet we give 100% of ourselves to others. I’ll admit it: there were times when I couldn’t wait for him to move out. But now that this is becoming a reality, I know that I am just not ready to lose him to the world. I’m not ready to walk into his empty room (which will most likely turn into his room/guest suite next fall) and not trip over piles of dirty laundry. I’m not ready to have nothing to remind him about, all the time. I am not ready to be the mother of a college student.

I am not ready for how I will deal with the void.

Me and the boys in the snow

Frozen in Time

These next few weeks will be particularly challenging. I will cry tears of joy and sadness. I will do my best, even when it’s not good enough, to stay present and enjoy every moment. I will never get these moments back. That much I know. I will try not to cry hysterically next time I pass a group of elementary school children and their parents walking to school. I will always look for that father with the big brown eyes and all his dark brown hair intact.

He has “30” frozen in time.  Take care of that beautiful child weighted under that monstrous backpack. He will be 18 in no time.

 

 

 

Categories: Accidental Stage Mom, Etcetera, get real, letting go, mother, parenting, raising boys, That's Life!, Truth, Uncategorized, Writing, Yoga | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

Oh Yeah, Life Goes On

As I sit here reading the Sunday paper — the one hard copy periodical I still read regularly — I begin thinking about when my kids were little. Things weren’t always easy for them, for us.

When my oldest son Ethan was two, we moved across the country, from Los Angeles to Boston. Soon after that, I got ill with a neurological disorder. Noah, my youngest, was only 5 months old when this happened. I was in bed for two years and missed his first steps and many other firsts. Then, when they were in 2nd and 5th grade, their father and I got separated, then divorced. I got remarried a few years later and my sons got a new step-brother out of the deal too. In the middle of all this, I changed careers – went from a journalist to a yoga studio owner.  A lot of changes and I worked a gazillion hours a week. When things were finally starting to settle down, Noah got cast in a Broadway touring show. I was running  two yoga businesses at the time but I knew what I had to do: leave it all behind and go on tour with Noah. But, I also left behind my husband, two other sons, my businesses and my dog.

3 Boys

My big boys

When I came home five months ago and 15 months later, I had a lot of decisions to make and catching up to do. Should I build my businesses back up to where they once were? Should we move out of this house if I no longer need the yoga studio that is on the property? At the same time, I had a lot of catch-up work to do with Ethan on his college applications and visits. Then it hit me: Where did life go and where is it headed?

Honestly, it feels like a blur. Next year this time, Ethan will be out of the house, living at college and starting his adult life. Noah will be a sophomore in high school while pursuing his dreams of a dance and theater career. Yes, I was there for my boys, always encouraging them and supporting them. But yet, I don’t remember a lot of details. Life changed and moved too fast.

Lake Massapoag

when things get quiet, you see clearly

So I decided to put the brakes on – at least in the best way I knew how in this ever moving forward swirl of life. For the past five months I have committed to making no major decisions for myself. That’s right: None. Rebuilding Breathe Joy Yoga was just too big of a decision so I decided against it. Been there, done that. I just wanted to spend some time “being.”

Not rushing, not racing, not having to do a million things at once. For the first three months, this felt, well, weird. I woke up every morning thinking I had to be somewhere, but I didn’t. I raced to my computer to open my email fully expecting messages from yoga students wanting information on classes and workshops. Nothing.  In my new experiment of “nothingness”, I didn’t even practice asana every day or even 4 days a week like I used to. Sure, I exercised BUT I made sure I didn’t take myself too seriously or put pressure on myself to do any one kind of exercise. And, I will admit this openly now: I let my meditation practice go by the wayside. You see, when I meditate and get quiet, I hear what I need to hear and do. I just didn’t want to listen to advice, not even my own. I was afraid of what I’d hear, like “You are spending too much time doing nothing. You should be running a business. You should be making more money. Yadda, yadda, yadda.”

This little experiment has been one of the biggest challenges of my life. I’m a “doer” by nature, not a “be-er.” I had no idea how hard this would be and it doesn’t help when even my kids say: “Mom, what are you going to do next? Are you going to get a job, start a new business, go back to the studio? What do you do every day?” They aren’t used to this new me.

Ironically, this little experiment was not intended to actually be an experiment. I just wanted to slow down. And, in doing so, opportunities have come into my life for myself, my family and my children. Amazing how that happens when you commit to nothingness.  You actually become more receptive to positive change AND you leave room for new opportunities to come into your life. Imagine that?  And, by the way, isn’t this a form of meditation of sorts? Isn’t this being present?

In this moment, this is my yoga – sans asana and all. Seeing life as it is: right here, right now.

Categories: Accidental Stage Mom, Billy Elliot, business, business of yoga, get real, letting go, Philosophy, That's Life!, Writing, Yoga | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Wake Up and Smell the Incense

By Robyn Parets

Holy savasana!

It’s time for yogis to wake up from resting pose — the English translation for the Sanskrit word pronounced shiv-asana — and smell the incense.  In the latest salvo proving big business is here to stay in the yoga world, a company received a patent last week for its technique of filming yoga classes for online distribution.

On December 10, Santa Monica, Ca.-based YogaGlo, Inc. was issued a patent claiming that its technique for YogaGlo class renderingfilming a yoga class is novel. In a nutshell, the patent gives YogaGlo exclusive rights to film yoga classes from the back of a room with a camera about three feet off the ground. It also requires that there be a “no mat zone” or “corridor” from the camera to the teacher whereby students are situated on mats on either side of the corridor. This enables a clear view from the camera to the instructor.

Yogis aren’t the only ones wondering why a patent this general and certainly not novel was granted in the first place.

Joel Lehrer, a partner at Goodwin Procter LLP in Boston, said it didn’t appear as if there was any legitimate invention in the way YogaGlo films its classes. Filming from the back of a class with an unobstructed view of the teacher is commonplace. Yet, YogaGlo managed to get the patent probably because the patent examiner didn’t quite understand the dynamics of a yoga class and that filming a teacher down a center aisle from a specified height is not unusual, he said.

“This patent (US serial number 8,605,152) gives YogaGlo the right to restrict others from doing what their patent covers and gives them a government-granted limited monopoly if they choose to enforce it,” said Lehrer, who specializes in patent and intellectual property law.

Oftentimes vague patents in other businesses do get approved. The software industry has been grappling with this for years, said Lehrer. In fact, even software companies with valid inventions are sometimes hesitant to file patents for fear of alienating their customer base. He explained that there is a stigma surrounding what some consider “inhibiting the advancement of technology.”

“Some companies in the software space choose not to pursue patents for fear of the backlash. They are afraid people won’t want to work for them or do business with them for ethical reasons.”

This industry backlash, said Lehrer, is something a company like YogaGlo could face if it chooses to enforce its patent.  In fact, while waiting to see if its patent would be approved, YogaGlo did send companies cease and desist letters, including the non-profit organization Yoga International.  Now, however, YogaGlo also has the right to charge licensing fees to companies that want to continue filming videos in a way consistent with the patent.

YogaGlo, which did not respond to inquiries for an interview, has been radio silent on this issue since last week’s news. But Lehrer said the company could also decide not to police the patent at all. “They are under no legal obligation to enforce it,” said Lehrer.

Todd Wolfenberg, executive director at Yoga International, said his organization removed 14 videos from its website in response to YogaGlo’s cease and desist letter.  “They were filmed in a similar way (to YogaGlo’s classes). Our cameras were about five feet off the ground but we also had aisles with students on both sides and a teacher in front.  Many people have filmed using this orientation before. Without an aisle, you can’t see the teacher,” said Wolfenberg, who said his organization, part of the 400-acre Himalayan Institute, does not want to get embroiled in a court battle.

Yoga International, said Wolfenberg, has the means and ability to film classes from different angles and is in the process of doing just that.  Visitors to the site usually have to pay for video content. Yet, while Yoga International is re-shooting certain classes, all video content is free.

“We think it serves you better in the long-term to take the high road. It’s better than lashing out and getting angry,” he said.

Yoga International is not the only one that this patent may affect. Companies in the business of filming yoga classes are plentiful and include Gaiam Inc., a publicly traded corporation that recently purchased My Yoga Online (MYT); YogaVibes; Yoga Download; and Yoga Today.  All of these companies charge fees for viewing content. There are also plenty of yoga teachers and companies that provide their streaming classes for free or by donation, such as DoYogaWithMe.com.  Still other large studio chains, like YogaWorks, now offer their own online system for viewing classes taught by their instructors.

Jamie Kent, president and founder of Denver-based Yoga Download, couldn’t believe a yoga company received a patent of this nature.

“This is far-reaching and goes beyond the yoga world. It has implications in the film industry, fitness business and other markets as well,” said Kent. “If one company can patent a camera angle, what’s to stop others from doing the same thing?” she said.

Yoga Download, with 9,000 monthly members, both creates its own content with a group of teachers and works with content partners who wish to stream videos on the Yoga Download platform.  About fifty percent of its business comes from membership and the other half is generated through single downloads or other non-member purchases. Kent said the company will now diligently convey new filming guidelines to its content providers.

Kent, as well as others in the yoga video streaming field agree that as the industry grows, smaller studios and yoga teachers will need to be aware of this patent and its ramifications.

Tania Neild, founder of StudioLiveTV, works with yoga studios to create a platform, or channel, to deliver online classes.  Since StudioLiveTV handles the technology end for its partners, it will ensure that classes are filmed in a way that doesn’t infringe on the patent, said Neild.

So far, the YogaGlo patent has only affected a couple of classes on the company’s Fitness for Action channel. The fundraising channel was launched to raise money for victims of the typhoon in the Philippines and other charities. YogaGlo, as well as other yoga content providers, donated classes. YogaGlo asked StudioLiveTV to remove a couple of the classes that infringed the pending patent and StudioLiveTV obliged, said Neild.

“They were very polite and were also generous in donating to our channel,” she said.

Nonetheless, it was a wake-up call that expertise from companies like StudioLiveTV and Yoga Download will be in high demand. Neild and others also note that the patent flies in the face of what many consider yoga to be all about: a healing art meant to help people on their path to wellness. Despite this, yoga is emerging as a business, not unlike any other industry. And with that comes potential lawsuits. In fact, the only way to challenge this patent entails going to court or a filing at the Patent Office, said Lehrer.

One way to invalidate a patent in court is by proving the existence of “prior art.” Essentially this would mean others, or even YogaGlo, used the same filming technique before August 2009, at least one year before YogaGlo initially filed for its patent in August 2010, said Lehrer. Yet, simply challenging the validity of a patent, regardless of its merit, can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, he said. The only other legal alternative, also costly, entails going to court as a defendant if YogaGlo threatens a lawsuit, he said.

The buzz in the yoga community is that perhaps Yoga Alliance, a non-profit association representing yoga teachers, will step up to the plate. Yet, YA isn’t sure what it will do next.  Although YA opposes the patent, President Richard Karpel stated, “I can’t provide more details about our plans because they haven’t been determined yet.”

As ugly as all this may sound in a business built upon peace, love and flowers, this may not be the last patent for yoga related businesses. ”Sadly, exclusive feels good to some. It’s contradictory to yoga, but it happens,” said Neild at StudioLiveTV.

According to Wolfenberg at Yoga International, it’s important for those involved in the yoga and business community at large to educate themselves. “It’s a very strange type of situation and I don’t know where Pandora’s box is going to open up next,” he said.

There’s one thing Wolfenberg knows for sure: “Yoga is changing.”

Robyn Parets is a journalist, editor, yoga teacher, and owner of two yoga-related businesses: Breathe Joy Yoga studio (www.breathejoyyoga.com) and Pretzel Kids, a trademarked children’s yoga brand (www.pretzelkids.com). She also blogs about yoga, business and life in general and can be found at www.awayfromom.net.

Categories: business, business of yoga, Etcetera, filming, get real, journalism, patents, Truth, Uncategorized, Writing, Yoga | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How I Got My Groove Back

Once upon I time I wanted to be Lois Lane. Or so I thought.Lois Laneclipboard

That was almost 30 years ago when I had pie in the sky ideas of exposing truth through telling stories. I wanted to make a difference. This was back in the day when there was no Internet or Facebook or Twitter or Instagram. People got their news from broadcast television, radio, and newspapers. That was it.

I studied journalism in college, where we used electric typewriters to write our stories. Without the simplicity of editing on computers, I learned to choose words wisely the first time around. Upon graduation, I went right to work at the Ventura County Star-Free Press, a large daily newspaper in Southern California. I wrote about crimes and court cases. I covered political events. I reviewed movies and concerts. I interviewed all sorts of people with all sorts of stories. I drank lots of coffee. I never smoked a cigarette. I worked hard and slept erratically.

Occasionally, I wrote a story that made a difference, but usually not. One of my rare articles that did just that still sits in a weathered box in storage somewhere. It was a story I picked up off the police radio while I was working in the newsroom one late night. A man working for the gas company was putting a pipeline down near a riverbank and stumbled upon a homeless man who resembled someone he saw on a recent broadcast of “America’s Most Wanted.” The police were hot on the trail and so was I. I told my editor I was going down to the riverbank. He didn’t think there was anything to the story but said I could certainly go check it out.

When I got there, the police had taken the homeless man away to question him. As it turned out, he was formerly a teacher who had been accused of molesting several children. He fled and had been hiding among the bushes for years – unnoticed, under the radar. He lived among other homeless people, many of whom I interviewed for my article. They loved him and thought of him as a close friend. I talked to these people after they learned about the true identity of the man they thought was their friend. They trusted him. They cared about him. Their children spent time with him. It rocked their world. I was about 22 years old and it rocked my world too.

The next day, my breaking story appeared on the front page. It cracked wide open a case that police and the judicial system had all but dismissed.

I never wrote anything like this again. I soon changed jobs. I wrote for trade magazines, business newspapers and eventually became a freelance journalist. I wrote about everything from travel to hotels to business to entertainment. I interviewed celebrities like Gregory Peck and chefs like Wolfgang Puck. Every day was different. For about 10 years, I traveled all over the world filing stories. It seemed way more glamorous than it was. I missed my children, my home, the monotony of daily life.

My stories became vapid and meaningless. Writing became a chore – something I no longer loved to do. At around the same time, I got sick with an autoimmune disorder (another blog post for another day). I quit writing.

Not sure what was to come next, I fell into yoga. I never thought I’d teach or run a studio, but that’s what I ended up doing. I started teaching for the same reason I began writing: to make a difference. But then the cycle started all over again. I started to burn out on running my business. So, before waiting until I was completely fried and had no desire left to teach, I pulled back. No need to risk my sanity and health. Wise decision.

I started blogging when I stopped running my studio full-time – about 18 months ago. And two fortuitous things happened: Not only do I love teaching again but I love writing again. Imagine that? I began writing from the heart, writing about things that mattered to me, writing about topics many can relate to, writing for the sheer love of it. Eventually people started reading my words. My yoga students enjoyed the stories and my readers enjoyed learning about this thing called yoga. Imagine that?

I was lost and now found. Twice already.

But, it’s a new world out there when it comes to publishing stories. The internet and social media make it easy to share information but these mediums also create a lot of clutter for people to wade through. Back in the day, hundreds of thousands of people read my stories daily over a cup of coffee in the morning. But now, where do I begin to find readers in an information ocean? How do I entice people to open my story instead of the thousands of others crowding their Facebook stream? How do my simple stories compete in feeds clogged with sensationalistic videos?

I decided to try something new. On Friday, one of my articles ran on website with thousands of readers. A few hours later, a couple hundred people had read my story. By the next day, 10,000 people had read my story. By the next day, that number had ticked up to 20,000. It is now at about 27,000 and still rising.
So, thank you for reading. Thanks for listening. Thanks for helping me get my groove back.

Categories: Accidental Stage Mom, get real, journalism, Philosophy, That's Life!, Travel, Truth, Writing, Yoga | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Witnessing the Yoga Scene

http://www.elephantjournal.com/2013/11/witnessing-the-yoga-scene-around-the-country-makes-me-consider-closing-my-studio-robyn-parets/

Categories: Accidental Stage Mom, Etcetera, get real, humor, letting go, On the Road, Philosophy, That's Life!, Travel, Truth, Writing, Yoga | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Discriminate and Eliminate: Walk On…….

I’ve been home for two months now. For the first time in a VERY long time, I have space to reflect. Life feels peaceful and calm – a major contrast to the whirlwind of a lifestyle I had for the past 15 years. Between having kids, working full-time as a journalist, running a yoga studio (open seven days a week), and then going on tour with Noah, I felt like I didn’t ever have a break. Oh, and I almost forgot: I was sick for two years with a neurological disorder (that I am blessed to have recovered from) and I got divorced, re-married and acquired a step-son along the way. Don’t get me wrong. I am not complaining. I had two successful careers, have an incredible husband, a supportive ex-husband, three wonderful sons, and my health. My future is sprawled out in front of me. I am blessed.

field with a path

follow your path

But in order to get to a place where I can look across this huge, spacious field of opportunity, I needed to walk away. Walk away from people, jobs, houses, sticky situations and more. Just walk away. There have been times when I have tried to walk away while others kept trying to drag me back in. There have been times when I have found myself knee-deep in a situation I desperately wanted out of and the only way to break free was to make a choice: walk away and not look back. There have been situations where I know I was right YET my happiness was being sacrificed. So I walked away. There have been times when I wished I had told people my side of a story or situation. Yet, I knew this would cause controversy and instead kept quiet. In those instances, I walked away. I know this is very vague, but there are just too many situations that come to mind. I somehow know that you can all relate.

It all boils down to this: Sometimes the path to peace and happiness in your own life is to pick another path and change your direction. Now, everyone has their own opinions and surely for some, walking away is a cowardly route. Yet, look at the alternative: staying in a toxic situation, place, relationship or job (just to name a few) is simply unhealthy – emotionally and physically.

When leaving a difficult place, you will notice a lot of commotion around you. This makes it even harder to walk away. Some people will support you without asking questions. Others will demand explanations, as if your choice to let go is somehow their business. Others will ignore you because they don’t know what to say. Still others will talk about your decisions and tear you down as a person, leading to rumors and gossip which can become not just untrue, but ugly. These types of people are usually the ones who have nothing better to do then gossip about others rather than deal with their own lives head-on. The truth is: your life is your life and your choices are uniquely yours. No one else, except those you invite in, need to know what led to your decisions. If they insist on knowing or opt to start rumors, they were probably not worth having in your life to begin with. Hmmm – maybe time to walk away.

Walking away is the same as letting go. And this is not easy. How many of you have struggled with leaving behind a love relationship, even when you know it’s a bad one? What about friends? This can be challenging too. Have you ever grappled with ending a friendship because you’re afraid of the ramifications such as mutual other friends walking away from YOU or this so-called friend starting negative rumors? Not all relationships are meant to go on forever. Surround yourself with good, kind people. People that lift you up, not pull you down. When people no longer do this for you, maybe it’s time move on. Ultimately, letting go is very personal. Some of us hang on for way too long and others don’t give things enough time. There is no right or wrong choice. There is only your choice.

field of flowers

create your field of dreams

A wise yoga teacher once said (and it has stayed with me): Discriminate and eliminate. Plain and simple.

If we all spent more time figuring this out and walking our path instead of involving ourselves in situations which are none of our business, the world would be a more peaceful place.

So here I am in the now. I’m doing the work. Simplifying and letting go. Looking ahead at the vast field and not knowing what’s on the other side. I’m ok with that.

Categories: Accidental Stage Mom, Etcetera, get real, letting go, Philosophy, That's Life!, Travel, Truth, Uncategorized, Writing, Yoga | Tags: , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Looking Back to Look Forward……

Hello all,

Noah had to write a “memoir” essay for school back in September 2012. He chose to write about his audition for “Billy Elliot the Musical.” As we are heading into our final week with the Billy Elliot tour, I felt it was appropriate to publish this essay now. I will still be blogging, in fact maybe more frequently when we are off this tour. Yet, the future is unknown, vast and exciting for both of us. Looking back over this past 14 months (we joined the tour for in Los Angeles for training back in mid April 2012!) so much has happened that has changed both of our perspectives on the world and humanity. We are both blessed to have had this experience and I am so proud that Noah has remained the same sweet, kind and humble boy that he was when this whole journey began.

As I write this today, I am home and just returned from a college campus visit with my older son, who performed last night with his Improv Comedy troupe, ImprovSoup. As a mother, I couldn’t be more proud of my boys: Ethan, Noah and Jacob. They are growing up to be caring, considerate human beings. And no amount of talent can hold a candle to that! Until I write again, here’s Noah in his own words……..feel free to share this post. It’s a good one!

                                                                          MY FIRST AUDITION

There we were, dad and I, on a rainy Friday morning in mid-September trucking along into the Big Apple for my audition for “Billy Elliot the Musical”.  This also happened to be my first audition ever. I was a dancer, and I had never sung or acted in front of anyone. Scared and nervous were both words that I could say were understatements. I had non-stop butterflies in my stomach.

First costume fitting in LA

My first costume fitting

Walking into the street, an umbrella overhead, we search for the correct towering skyscraper, the one at 500 8th Avenue. However, I’m not really a veteran of finding my way around this city, so I was panicking, thinking we would never find it.

“What number is it again?” I said in a rushed tone.

“It’s 500. It’s just up ahead on the right”, Dad said, making sure I’m calm.

Then, there it was — seeming to stand taller than any other building in New York City as I looked up at it, 500 8th Avenue. We walked through the big glass doors that were almost too heavy for me to open and the receptionist asked who we were and where we were headed in the building. Then, slowly but surely, the elevator went up too many floors for me to count. We stepped out of the elevator and I turned to my dad and said “Wow, well this is it”. That’s all that I could get out of my mouth. I marveled at the great big dance rooms and knew that all the huge auditions happened in this building. I thought that a Broadway star would walk out of any of these rooms any second.

Dad and I walked up to the receptionist and asked where we should go for the Billy Elliot audition and it turned out we were super early. They hadn’t even set up the holding room yet. It was only 12 o’clock and the audition didn’t start until 2. The waiting began…

So, the staff of the studios gave us two chairs to sit in and wait. I stretched, sat, talked a bit, stretched more, and saw George Hamilton.

“That’s George Hamilton!” my dad said.

“Who’s that?” I said, as I had never heard of him before.

Soon after that, the holding room was prepared for us. There were chairs and mirrors lining the walls, a registration table at the front of the room, and a piano in the corner. Then, I slipped my ballet shoes on and started jumping and turning to get warmed up. My dad also gave the woman behind the registration table my photo, information, and resumé (which my mom just wrote).  Soon, each of the other boys trickled into the holding room one by one. Each boy had a different background, look, and came from somewhere different.

Then a lady came into the room. Her presence was almost daunting as she was much taller than I. I was nervous. She had all of the boys follow her into a separate room, leaving all of our parents behind. She also took our resumés and headshots with her.

We ended up in a room identical to the one we left behind. We started with hip-hop and we learned a short combination in that style. We did it over and over again until we felt comfortable with the steps, but hip-hop has never been something I’m completely confident about.

Two at a time we performed this combination for the panel of three “judges”.Although they never introduced themselves as judges, we knew that was what they were. They were three intimidating people that I hoped liked my dancing. We did it over and over again for what seemed like an hour or two.

Next, we did ballet. I put on my ballet shoes and immediately I was slipping and sliding all over the place and then they told us that we could wear jazz shoes for a bit more traction. I was surprised by the small amount of ballet we did. At the most we did twenty minutes of ballet. We did a few basic exercises, including turning and jumping. We went across the floor one at a time doing jumps and turns, but out of the corner of my eye all I saw were the “judges” observing me super closely, never taking their eyes off of me.

After that, it was time for tap. We did very simple tap exercises like shuffles and flaps and not much else because of the slippery floor. I was caught off guard that many of the boys in the audition had never tapped before.

Before we finished up the dancing, they told us we could improvise a dance. We did just that two at a time. I did some turns and jumps that I thought I had remembered from seeing the show. Also, I tried to throw in the limited acrobatics I knew because I knew Billy had to do that in the show as well.

Noah Thanksgiving

So Thankful!

We also did one acting exercise. The casting woman brought us over to the window in the room and said, while pointing to the floor below, “Imagine there was a fire on the floor below us. I want you to warn the three of us (judges) that there is a fire in the building only using the words ‘There’s a fire in the building’”. That is exactly what we did: we would run one at a time from the window up to the judges table and warn them that there is a fire in the building, but only using that one sentence. They explained that we could only use that one sentence because, like in a play, we can only use the lines that were given. Therefore we couldn’t stray from those few words.

Lastly, we sang for the casting people. The pianist in the room quickly taught us the first verse of the big dance/song in act two of the show which is called “Electricity”. It’s also the climax of the musical. We had maybe two or three minutes to practice and then they went around having us sing the song, two lines each. For this section of the audition however, there was somebody recording our singing, which made it more nerve-wracking for me.

After that, the “judges” said thank you for coming and that was it. The boys and I walked back to the waiting room where our parents were waiting and packed up and left.

“How’d it go?”my dad asked.

“Good, I think.” I said, although I wasn’t really sure how it went or if I did a good job.

Overall, I believe my first ever audition was a success and definitely a huge learning experience as it was my first one ever. And here I am with Billy Elliot — all because of that one, first audition.

Categories: Accidental Stage Mom, Billy Elliot, Etcetera, get real, Noah's posts, On the Road, Philosophy, That's Life!, Travel, Truth, Writing | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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