Resolve to Love

I remember December 31, 2007 like it was yesterday, and at the same time it feels like 100 years ago.

 

My little girl, Alexis, was born on December 2nd of that year, and I was already madly in love with her.

On New Year’s Eve, I was doing what I always did – making resolutions galore, but also holding my beautiful baby girl in my arms.   As I looked at her, I realized that I did not want her to grow up with a mom who hated herself & didn’t even want to look in the mirror.

The scale was 235 pounds when she was born, which was the largest I had been in my life.

Being overweight for most of my life up to that point – I made the same resolutions that year that I always made – “lose weight” – “work out” – ad nauseam.

But this time I decided I would try to do things a little differently & actually ask for help from others.

I joined weight watchers, hired a personal trainer & started taking yoga classes at the gym.

Being part of a like-minded community, and having others helped me take off 90 pounds that year, but I still hated myself when I looked in the mirror.

I continued taking those yoga classes at the gym, because during those classes – were the only times the harsh voices in my head that told me I was “not enough” of whatever – were actually quiet.

Even though I had lost 90 pounds – I still had no self-confidence, and truly felt like the rest of the world had some “secret to happiness” that I was never going to learn.

I finally got up the confidence to join an actual yoga studio – which was terrifying.   I had lived most of my life in a larger body, and definitely not flexible or athletic.  I was certain that everyone would see me for the fraud I was.

Thankfully, reality was much different than the thoughts in my head (per usual), and the teachers & students at the yoga studio eventually became like family to me.

However – they had mirrors in the studio, and I still couldn’t look at myself despite the countless cues to “look at your own eyes in the mirror”.   I still did not love that person staring back at me.

Eventually – the hard shell of self-hatred & self-doubt that surrounded my heart began to crack – as I found the courage to start looking at my own eyes in the mirror.   In those early days, I would often find myself in tears by the end of class, or even after certain poses.  I started shedding the layers of myself (and I’m not talking about the scale), and I began on a journey of connection with self.

It is 9 years later, and I live a very different life than I thought I would.   I am still very much on the journey to self-love, but I also get to encourage others to do the same as a yoga teacher.

My little girl has severe autism, (more about that in my other blog posts) and she is constantly challenging me to live in alignment with my highest self.

This year I have had to re-examine a lot of things about myself, and sit with a lot of uncomfortable feelings.   The difference today is that I am willing to do the work of being honest, vulnerable & even sometimes very lonely.  I’m willing to look at my feet, and change directions if I know I am walking towards something that will harm me or others.

 

So this year, I haven’t sat down and made of list of things I hate about myself.  I’ve made a list of my strengths, the things that make my heart happy & make me feel like I’m living in alignment with my highest self.   I’ve resolved to use my strengths to continue to be the best version of me, and make more time for those things that make my heart sing.

 

I wish you the happiest 2017, and my wish for you is that you will find a way to your own heart this year.

 

Ready to start your yoga journey ?   Click here for my live schedule and a list of upcoming beginner workshops!

 

 

 

 

My yoga weight loss story

I started practicing yoga, because my life was pretty broken.

My daughter had just been diagnosed with autism – and my personal demons were louder than ever.   Tired of seeking out therapists and relying on my vices of food and red wine – I knew that I had to seek out healing – and I decided to give yoga a whirl.

It was through my practice that the voices of self-judgement began to quiet down – my heart started to un-break a little – and my body & heart began to be stronger – more flexible – and stable.  I slowly became more mindful of my body – and the tools and techniques I used to cope with stress.  Yoga was for me – and I was in love!

Fast forward 6 years – I am now a yoga teacher who tries to peek her head out into the community when time permits (which truly isn’t much these days!).  I have kept largely quiet about my physical transformation, because the spiritual transformation has been the larger of the two.  I also still fight with my own insecurities – and respect teachers with all body sizes.  We are all on different journeys – and I never want to discount the journey of another teacher or student.

My life journey has been one that is littered with extremely low self esteem- eating disorders and self hatred.  I always felt like everyone else had the secret or the key to life – and I obviously would never figure it out.

I grew up as an overweight child – and was an overweight teenager – weighing 220 pounds in my freshman year of high school.

I was terribly shy – and unsure of myself – and I put myself on many diets and exercise programs to lose the weight.  I always talked to myself in a very mean and condescending way in order to shed the pounds.   I was constantly punishing and restricting myself, and I didn’t allow myself to enjoy my life.

I was able to starve myself down by 85  pounds by my senior year of high school – but the weight loss was short lived – and I gained it all back and more by the time I reached my 20th birthday.

I was able to lose and re-gain the weight 2 more times before my 30th birthday, but It was actually 6 months before my 29th birthday that I lost all the weight again and started a consistent yoga practice.

A little over 6 years later – and I can honestly say that this is the longest time in my life that I have not been overweight by medical guidelines for my height and frame.

I do not owe this dramatic change in my life to any miracle diets or weight loss drugs.  This change in my life is due to the spiritual surgery I have undergone in my yogic journey.

I have learned to love and respect my body by living my yoga practice off of the mat.

When I am feeling intensity in my practice – I remind myself to – breathe, engage – and let go of the results. Learning how to sit with my feelings – even when they aren’t awesome – has transformed my life.  We must learn how to face fear and difficulty head on – and look it straight in the eye.  It is only through that process that the old parts of ourselves that no longer serve us can truly fall away.

On my yoga mat – I have also learned to stop comparing myself to others – and imagining that everyone else holds a secret to life that I am missing.

We all show up to our mat with our stories – strengths – weaknesses – sadness – joy – and things that make us individual.  The body holds all of these things within each one of us, and it is completely unfair for me to compare my yoga practice to that of another.

I still have my days where I show up and feel like a complete phony, and that my cover will be blown.  I worry that people won’t want to take my class, because I’m not as athletic as some teachers.  There are days I can hold arm balances – and days that I fall flat on my face with each attempt.

However – the truth of the matter is that we are all just showing up and doing our best on this path.  My students – my teachers – and my friends have always shown me love, compassion & encouragement to keep going – keep shining – and to drop the self criticism out of my dialogue.

If there is such a thing is a yoga for weight loss story – this is mine.  My body has stayed at a healthy weight for the last 6 years – but the real “weight loss” has been the weight of my own insecurities, self hatred and doubt.  I feel lighter in my soul and spirit – because I love who I am as a person on most days.  I love to laugh a lot – because despite all my struggles – I am a pretty happy soul – and I do my best to accept all parts of me.

And in the end – when we can begin to learn love and acceptance for ourselves – (flaws, fears and struggles included!) – we are closer to the light.

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Autism Action Time!

 

Thank you so much for all the love and support from my previous post – Autism Awareness for the yogi !

I mentioned the group – TACA (Talk About Curing Autism)in my blog – as a source of help and support to my child and my family.

TACA is run by donations of family and friends of those children living with autism, and provides resources, support group meetings, family picnics, holiday parties & seminars from leading doctors, therapists & child advocates.

TACA gives families the tools they need to navigate through this very challenging diagnosis – and I have made lifelong friends in TACA.

Evolation Yoga – in midtown Atlanta will be holding a benefit class on Friday April 18th at 10am – and I am going to teach it!  🙂  Click HERE – if you would more information or to join us!

If you are unable to attend, but would still like to help support the efforts of TACA – please click HERE!

April is Autism Awareness month – and we truly appreciate your help and support!

Here is a short video I made about our family, autism – and the help that TACA has given us.  Please take a moment to watch if you can!

XO –

Sarah Kleiner

Autism Awareness for the yogi

In April of 2009 I walked into a studio and stepped onto a yoga mat.

In April of 2009 – I was utterly broken.   I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t sleep – I couldn’t do anything except for drink more wine, get more angry & feel more sorry for myself.

My perfect – beautiful – 16 month old baby girl had just been diagnosed with autism – and my heart was utterly broken.

I needed to be “healed” or “fixed”….or something.   I was searching for that something to make me whole – and to make me forget all the sadness.

SO – I stepped into a new studio and onto a yoga mat.

I was instantly in love with the breathing – the moving – the intensity, and the silence.   For the first time in a long time – the sound of screaming in my own head stopped.   I was able to escape to another place – and to forget my crumbling world – if only for 90 minutes.

As my journey with yoga began – so did my journey with Autism.

This “condition”- I only had heard of on the news or in the movies – came in and took over the life of my child.

A once – very happy, interactive & responsive baby – was now a toddler that screamed constantly – didn’t speak at all – slept only 2-3 hours per night – didn’t respond to her name, wouldn’t let me hold or comfort her and seemed locked away in her own world.

I quit my corporate job and became of full time “Autism-mom”.

I shuttled her from therapy to therapy, doctor to doctor. We traveled coast to coast – trying to find the right autism doctor for her, and we stopped taking vacations so we could afford the best of the best for this child.

All the while – I kept up with my yoga – 5 or 6 days (and sometimes) 7 days a week at the studio. It was the only way that I kept from completely shattering into a million pieces.

Even if I had only slept 2 hours the previous night – I knew that during those 90 minutes – I would be able to find the peace, solace & healing that I would need to get through the remaining 22 & ½ hours of the day.   During those 90 minutes – I would surprise myself with the things my tired body was able to do – just by coming back the next day and trying again.

During all of this – I also found TACA (Talk About Curing Autism) – and a wonderful group of families & children coping with autism.

It was at TACA that I found other moms who became my fast friends – and started to hold my hand as I walked down this road.

Here was a network of people who were able to give me a glimmer of hope for the first time in a long time.   This group held support group meetings, seminars from autism doctors and therapists, picnics and parties – just for families and kids with autism.   I stopped feeling so sad and alone all the time.

With lots of love, help and support – my daughter began to make slow progress. She began to open the door into our world – just a little. I began to see the twinkle in her eye that had been missing for so very long.

After a few years – we made the decision that I would go to yoga teacher training – and begin a career as a yoga teacher – so I could continue to give my daughter the attention and care she needed (and teach the yoga that had helped me change my life!).

During my teacher training – my relationship with yoga changed dramatically. It was no longer a source of pure “escape” – but a place that became more about “pure acceptance”. Finding that path to acceptance was the key that unlocked the door to actually living my life – instead of trying to escape it all the time.

Learning acceptance of my body, my strengths, my limitations, my flaws & my shadow self – was a process that was just beginning on my yoga mat.   It was vital to me – if I was going to teach.

Suddenly – It wasn’t during the most technically difficult yoga pose – or most physically demanding practice where the “yoga” began, it was shining a light on all of those “shadows” within myself that the real yoga began.

Through the yoga – I realized that learning acceptance of my daughter was the larger picture for me.

How could I truly love this child if I couldn’t accept everything about her and every single hair on her head?   Even if it was the most painful thing in the world – I couldn’t keep running and escaping.

In my physical yoga practice, I could force myself into different poses that my body wasn’t ready for just yet – and I would get hurt.

And if I forced my daughter to be someone that she wasn’t – if I denied her autism – if I denied who she was for just one moment – I would get hurt, and so would she.

We have been living with autism for the last 5 years.

It has been the hardest thing I have ever dealt with in my life.

My daughter is 6 years old and cannot speak a sentence – even though we have had countless hours in speech therapy.

My daughter cannot communicate her basic needs to me – and often cries and screams in frustration.

In public – we often get stares – as she makes strange noises to block out the sensory input that overwhelms her mind and her body.

It is really really hard – and sometimes I just want to take her and run far far away.

But we don’t stop showing up – trying – accepting and loving her just the same.

And I haven’t stopped doing yoga either. In fact- teaching yoga has changed my life even more for the better.

Yoga is most definitely about healing. Yoga is most definitely about transformation.

But, for me, yoga is truly about acceptance of just this moment – just this breath – and what we have in front of us – just right now.

Yoga can do amazing things for people, and has done amazing things for me.

But instead of something that helps me escape my life, yoga helps me live my life.

Yoga reminds me that if I keep showing up, and I keep trying every day – things will change – healing will happen & light will illuminate.

My daughter teaches me that these things will happen when they are supposed to – and not on my schedule.   So in the meantime – all I can do is show up, shine my light – and breathe.

Shine on my friends.

Click HERE for more information on TACA – and how you can help.
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Aparigraha – Let it go!

Danna Faulds – “Let it Go”

“Let go of the ways you thought life would unfold; the holding of plans or dreams or expectations.

Let it go.   Save your strength to swim with the tide.

The choice to fight what is here before you now will only result in struggle, fear, and a desperate attempt to flee from the very energy you long for.

Let go.

Let it all go and flow with the grace that washes through your days whether you receive it gently or with all your quills raised to defend against invaders.

Take this on faith: the mind may never find the explanations that it seeks, but you will move forward nonetheless.

Let go, and the wave’s crest will carry you to unknown shores, beyond your wildest dreams or destinations.

Let it all go and find the place of rest and peace, and certain transformation. “

Finding your Dharma….A mom’s journey to yoga

First of all…..What is Dharma?

Short description – When you live your true purpose and give your gifts fully, you are fully alive and living your fullest potential – your Dharma.  Some people might say it is your God given purpose.

How many of us can truly say we are living our Dharma?

First of all – let me say that I am not a certified spiritual guru – a perfect human being – or anyone else qualified to tell anyone how to live their life.

I am just a mom – who loves doing yoga – teaching yoga – and also happens to have a 5 year old little girl with autism.  Hopefully I can weave all these pieces together to bring relevance back to my topic.

Let me back up to 4 years ago yesterday….April 16 – 2009.  This date is really imprinted on my mind…..and probably always will be.

My 15 month old baby had stopped talking & communicating 2 months ago – and seemed more and more disconnected from all of us.  She had developed completely typically – hit all developmental milestones – and then started going in reverse at 13 months.  I was in denial – because it just seemed like a bad dream that I might wake up from one day.

On that chilly day in April – we made our first visit to a developmental pediatrician.  I let my husband do the talking – because I was incapable of being honest with myself – let alone any professionals who might slap a label on my child.

So my husband talked – the doctor observed her – took tons of notes – and I sat there drinking coffee and nursing a terrible hangover.  (Wine was my “medicine” at that time for disconnecting from the situation.)

We left with a diagnosis of PDD.NOS (she was too young for the autism diagnosis at the time – but did get it the following year) – apraxia, sensory processing disorder – and were told that she would most certainly have life long difficulties and limitations.

Now I will stop right here and say – if you are looking for the “feel good” story of the year – where the child recovers completely and is now in mainstream school….this might be the wrong blog for you to read.  It is still a good story – just not the one where the kid plays piano in a concert hall or sings on a cute you-tube video or something like that.

Every year presents itself with new challenges and heartaches.  She still struggles to talk – and when she does – only 15% is understandable…..even by me.  She doesn’t notice people unless she knows them – and she has had trouble sleeping for the last 4 years.  Some nights we only get 2 hours of sleep – if that.

We spend most of our money on therapies – food (a very clean diet) – and diapers.   Yes – a 5 year old who isn’t potty trained.  Not for lack of trying!

We spent the first 2 years after her diagnosis thinking that we could “cure” her.  Exerting our will on her – flying across the country to see different doctors – spending thousands upon thousands of dollars for medical interventions and therapies.

When we had little or no results – we just blamed ourselves – each other and God.  Speaking solely for myself – I was (and sometimes catch myself going there) – bitter – angry, cynical and jealous of people who had “typical” kids.  Even jealous of people who had kids with Aspergers.  Such a terrible way to live your life – and I do not recommend it.

At some point during all this insanity – I found yoga.  I started going every single day….and I started to have “releases”  (still do some days!) – …I would break out in tears during savasana.  During the silence – during the moments in between the moments – I would start to feel.

As days of yoga turned into months and years – the tears became joyful.  I became more thankful – less bitter – less angry.  I started to heal a little bit.  I stopped comparing myself to others as much (still working on this one daily) – and most of all – I stopped comparing my child to others (definitely still working on this!).

I fell in love with this new way of looking at myself, my child – and the world.  The yoga was helping me!  How oh how could I get more!?  (Me – always more is better! 😉

One day I decided I wanted to teach, and after much thought and support from my husband – I went to training.

Through training I went through a lot – emotionally & physically.  I had to keep letting old ideas die – and be OK with it.  I had to find acceptance for my body – for my life – for my child.   Sometimes I would go through a weekend of physically exhausting training on 2 hours of sleep.  Then there was the fact that I was terrified that no one would want me as a teacher for 10,000 reasons in my own head.

And then one day it happened.  I was in front of a class teaching people.  TERRIFIED.  I stumbled a little on my words – kept going as smoothly as I could – while inside I was shaking and trying to evoke to Gods to carry me through the class.

And then the class was over.  I got smiles – thank you’s – hugs……”when do you teach again? where else do you teach?”   They must have been talking to the wrong person….?  But they were talking to me.  The quirky gal walking around – speaking softly and asking people to relax and feel their breath moving them.

I was on a CLOUD!  Was this my Dharma?  I didn’t have any idea – but it surely felt like it.  A new level of transformation and healing has been happening in my life.  My daughter – by living her Dharma – and just being herself isn’t “holding me back” anymore.  Woah – wait a second – did I just realize that it wasn’t all about me?

Truthfully – my daughter is the light of my life and I wouldn’t change a hair on her head – even if I could.  (Let me also give props to prayer & meditation on that last comment)

This autism journey is truly the hardest thing I have ever had to deal with in my life.  But it has gotten better – some days it is beautiful – some magnificent – and some heartbreaking.  The truth is that I can actually see the beauty now – and not only the pain.

Stepping outside of myself and sharing something I love (yoga) – helps clear things up even more.  Is that my Dharma?  I don’t know.  But it sure feels right from the bottom of my heart – so I will keep doing it today.

-Jai Baghwan

Good vs Bad – old ideas and finding my truth…

It happened a month or so before I finished my teacher training.

I was in class with one of my favorite teachers (and most certainly a mentor) – and I was trying to stabalize my shoulders in headstand. I started getting a little pain in my right shoulder and a panicky feeling in the bottom of my stomach.
She was encouraging me – giving me small assists – and I exploded – “I have a bad shoulder!” – and immediately came down.
Very gently – she sat down beside me – looked me straight in the eye and said “Don’t ever say anything about your body is ‘bad’ again.”

Those words really struck something deep within me – and I immediately nodded in response and sank into child’s pose….trying to hold back tears.
Her words really hit me like a ton of bricks.
My entire life – I have fought with self esteem issues – weight – and constantly not feeling “good enough…athletic enough…smart enough”.
I have told myself so many lies over the years – and based my self worth on numbers on a scale. I have certainly been guilty of looking at my body as “bad”. Where is the truth in any of that?

Yoga has really helped me to begin to find my truth and stabalize a little in so many ways. Because of my yoga practice and lifestyle, I have maintained a healthy weight for the past 4 years.
And when you are told as a 7 year old – that you are overweight – put on diets by your father – and made fun of for most of your childhood and teenage years for being the “fat” kid….this is a huge deal.

But I must add- that this has been (and will continue to be) – a journey. I wake up some days and feel like that 7 year old who was terrified to go outside and play for fear of being made fun of or judged. Thankfully – I have my yoga mat – amazing friends – and a spiritual life to help center me and bring me back to my truth.

During my teacher training – all of those old demons were really awakened – and the lies flooded my head again. “How can you be a yoga teacher if you don’t weigh XXX- no one will want to take your class.” “You aren’t a good yogi if you don’t……insert LIE here…..”
It was really hard – and I really struggled a lot in those 6 months with my view of me.

Since I have started teaching – there has begun to be a major healing for me.
I am finding freedom in learning to let go of what I “believe to be true” – vs. what is actually true.
Stepping outside of myself – teaching others to find their center – to breathe – to be OK in the moment with where they are right now – helps me more than I can ever explain.
I pray that I will have the opportunity to teach a student that their body is not “bad” -as my teacher did with me.
When you can have such a paradigm shift – it is life changing.

Will I have days where those “old ideas” pop up? Absolutely. Do I have to believe those lies? Absolutely not.

Hope this made sense to someone somewhere!

Jai Baghwan!
Sarah - age 7

Trust in the process brings you closer to the goal

0307The first time I took a Bikram yoga class back in 2009 – I remember thinking….”You want me to put my leg where? How exactly am I supposed to balance on one leg AND kick my other leg out straight – much less swing it behind me into a standing split!?”

I was intimidated – and the competitor in me was feeling completely defeated.
But – I kept going back to class. Something kept me coming back into that room. perhaps it was that indescribable calm I felt for the first time in my life in savasana. Or it was the first time I had heard myself breathe in years.
Class after class – teachers kept encouraging me that even if I was doing the first part of the posture – I was getting the full benefit…(even though I didn’t believe them!)
But see – I want to look like that woman on the front row!!

Eventually I did get all of the poses (I did not say MASTER….just “get”!)….and this was a result of showing up to my mat day after day for a couple years. Letting go of what I thought I was supposed to look like – listening to my body – and trusting the process. Trusting the yoga.

Fast foward to the now…Thank GOD yoga is such a different thing for me now.

When I go to a yoga class or practice yoga (since completing training – I much prefer to practice on my own rather than go to class!) – it isn’t about having the most pretty standing bow – or not falling out of tree. It is about grounding & connecting with myself and the greater good that I would like to become. It is about finding my breath – finding my purpose. Not getting lost. Doing the next right thing.

And every day is different. Every day I need something different. Some days I need to lay in reclined hero for 15 minutes on a bolster….and some days I need to walk myself down the wall 15 times into a backbend.

Every day life is different.
Especially when you have a child with autism. A child who cannot speak to communicate their needs – and a child who needs so much.

Today I started writing because I am so grateful for the yoga. I am writing because I have to teach tomorrow – and perhaps I need to inspire myself. I need to remember why I started yoga – why I decided to teach in the first place. I need to pull those things out of myself – because when you spend your whole life caring for your child – you forget who you are and what you are about sometimes.

This last week has been the most challenging week I have had in at least a year. My little one has had some kind of mental shift – and has become overloaded. She has been spending most of her days whimpering and crying – unable to calm down – and unable to tell me what she needs. She won’t eat. She won’t sleep. She won’t stay at school. We have been to the pediatrician twice to check her out. Her Occupational Therapist (who is one of the best in the southeast) – is stumped. We are all stumped. We are all exhausted.

I was able to get 2 hours to myself yesterday – and instead of going to the gym to go running – or rushing off to a class – I went to the mat. I started breathing – I started moving – and I was able to bring the peace back to myself. For the first time – a little voice inside me spoke up and reminded me to trust the process.

Last night she was awake for almost the entire night. Frantic – crying – upset….but for one of the first times in the past week – I was able to calm her down. I put my entire body into her tiny bed (toddler bed with a weight limit of 50 pounds….oops)….and rubbed her feet. Rubbed her back. But the difference between last night and other nights is that I was practicing yoga the entire night. I was practicing Dirga pranayama- I was practicing Ujjayi – I was doing nadi shodhana…..and I know she could feel it.
I was calm – I was centered – I prayed – I breathed – I did the yoga.

Our little journey is far from over….and tomorrow I must teach a workshop at a new studio. I am nervous – because frankly I haven’t been myself in the past week – but as I have written this – a calm has come over me.
I trust the yoga. It has brought me this far. I trust my higher power for getting me here – and I know that the universe will not take me on a journey without a reason.

So – I hope that my musings have made some sense today – I am going back to the mat now.

Jai Bhagwan!