December is always an opportune time for reflection. As we prepare for the magic of the holidays, friends, good food, fun times and family traditions a few moments pause before the chaos of Uncle Eddie and Aunt Bethany (a reference to a well worn family tradition of my own) are precious. Reflection gives us time to stop, give gratitude and smile at the past year from a birds’ eye view.
Running has always had a starring role in my life; at times, running and racing has been more important to me that my children and my partner. At other times, running was my way to ‘run away’ from life’s challenges, relationships that I didn’t know how to be myself in, or my way to punish myself for my actions which hurt others. Today I am grateful that I can still run, given that I’ve been running consistently and competitively since I was 10 years old. I am grateful that I have ‘run through’ those various aforementioned relationships that I had with running. “Running through” has allowed me to arrive in a relationship with running where it remains a steadfast anchor in my life, provides me with ways to physically challenge myself yet sits comfortably alongside the balance of my relationship to those who matter most—my children, my partner and my work. I’m lucky now that my partner loves running (almost) as much as I do! In fact It is my work which has taught me this balanced relationship to running. My yoga practice and teaching have given me the skills I need and the physical strength and mental quiet to be able to run far, fast and for the love of it. Yoga—union of mind and body through breath—you are my best teacher. This year, I set goals in my running and achieved them, smashing 19 hours for the West Highland Way race and finishing in the top 5. New goals include a speed record attempt on the Southern Upland Way, and my latest foray into ‘short distance’ running at 5k with a training plan to go sub 18 minutes.
In November 2015 Pen and I purchased a commercial property on the high street in Newport-on-Tay Scotland. We came up with the name ‘Yoga-on-Tay’ to reflect our desire to integrate yoga with the river, and the community of Newport-on-Tay with the vision that a yoga studio on your local high street makes it feel accessible to all. I went from teaching local classes in the church hall and cycling like a headless chicken all over Dundee to make a living teaching in all sorts of spaces to basing myself in my own studio. It was a dream come true. The studio also gave us the opportunity to develop ‘our yoga’. What kind of yoga did we want to teach, be and live? Yoga for everyone has always been our shared vision. So when a student with a recent amputation called to ask if I would work with her, I hesitated only because I had no experience with this situation. Initially I doubted my abilities and said as much to the student. She was however, persistent and asked that we just have a session to see what was possible. I agreed to that. That was 6 months ago. I am now taking on several other amputees through a programme that was jointly designed by myself and that aforementioned student who was willing to take a chance and trust me with my knowledge and intuition. One student whom I worked with has now transitioned to joining a general class where the poses are adapted for her needs. After a few weeks of coming to class, she recently remarked to others at the start of class last week, “for the first time in 40 years I have been able to walk around for some time without my sticks (walking aids)”. On top of that we now receive funding for these sessions through the ‘Finding your Feet’ a Glasgow-based charity for amputee recovery and rehab. Take chances, trust yourself and others. Allow yourself to be drawn outside your protective bubble of what you think you know and who you think you are able to work with. Be flexible, not rigid in your approach to your work. Teaching is very much an interactive and iterative process. It is not liner, nor is it one-sided. You must be able to gauge your students, allow them to feel supported, gently challenged and safe in your class.
I have learned that if you want someone else to change, you yourself must change first. I have learned how to negotiate with my children, assert my voice in a compassionate way and to connect with my children when they are acting in unkind or aggressive ways. I have learned to validate their feelings so that they can calm down and my messages can get through to them. It has been utterly profound, the transformation, our connection. I had huge doubts about my decision to move towards more compassionate communication with my children. I worried that I was spoiling them when I gave them a hug after one of them hit the other or smashed a camera. My fears were quickly dispelled when one of my twins was reflecting on the amount of love required to give time, and energy to the many adults in her life. She counted on her hand 8 (“eight people mom!”) people that she had to love and she expressed feelings of being overwhelmed by that number. My other twin quietly touched her leg and said “9 people”, “you”. You have to love you too. I smiled. The laughter and smiles in our tiny house have multiplied exponentially since I began to adopt this new way of parenting. The tears, screams, slammed doors and shoves have dramatically decreased. A journey has begun. Be confident, be consistent and be there for your kids with love and understanding. A little patience and a few deep breaths go a long way.