Posts Tagged ‘altheatized’

Meditating Mom

January 8, 2014

The sun is just starting to crest over the roofs of neighboring houses when I wake.  I roll out of bed and say, “Thank you Spirit,” as my feet touch the floor. My husband is sleeping peacefully and the house is quiet as I prepare my meditation mat, blankets and bolsters on the bed.

Facing the open windows and the rising sun, I settle comfortably on the bolster and fold my legs into an easy half lotus. I take a deep breath as I look at the changing colors of the brightening sky.

My focus changes to my breathing and I close my eyes. I feel my body ease into the joy of stillness. I can feel my heartbeat. My palms are resting one on the other, and I sense the energy exchange between them.

“Hrmphtschorph.”

I hear my husband make an interesting waking sound as I feel him stretching on the bed. He gets up, walks into the bathroom and immediately starts brushing his teeth. I ignore the sounds and focus on my breathing once again. I am immune to outward sounds.

Knock, knock.

That can’t be one of my sons. My older son has already left for high school and my younger son doesn’t have to get up for another 30minutes.

Knock, knock. “Mom?”

It is the younger son. What is he doing up at this early hour? I hear my husband turn on his electric razor and the rhythmic whir as he moves up and down on his jaw.

“Mom, are you sure today is an A day at school and I don’t need my trombone for band?”

I easily open my eyes and slowly turn my head toward him like the meditating goddess that I am. I speak with a peaceful calm, “Honey, bring me my cell phone from the kitchen counter.”

He leaves and I return to my focused breathing. I empty my mind. I ignore the sound of the shower running and the clanking of the ironing board being opened in the bathroom next door. I am peace. I am bliss. I am meditating.

Bang. My son returns, swinging the door open with a bit too much force, and it slams into the bookstand behind it. I slowly open my eyes, and mentally remind myself that I am a yoga goddess. I am above anger and frustration. I am The Meditating Mom.

I reach from beneath my blanket and take the cell phone from my son. I patiently tap on the screen until I find the email from his band instructor. Together we read the email regarding the appropriateness of leaving his trombone at home.

“Okay, thanks Mom,” he says, and walks from the room, gently closing the door.

I return to focused breathing, an empty mind, a peaceful spirit. I am so deep in meditation, I don’t realize my son has returned until he says…

“Why are you sitting there like that? Are you meditating?”

I look upon him with the peaceful grace of The Meditating Mom that I am. I nod slowly, with loving eyes. Then I notice his hair is not combed and he’s wearing one light jacket to go to the bus – which is not coming for another 45 minutes. My meditating mind wonders 3 things at once:

  1. Why hasn’t he combed his hair? Didn’t he look in the mirror?
  2. Atlanta is experiencing record low temperatures in a single digit. Is he planning to go the bus stop in that light jacket?
  3. Why in the world is this child standing here ready for school almost an hour before he’s supposed to be?

But I am The Meditating Mom. I will not attack this child with queries and frustrated commentary on the importance of looking in the mirror before you leave the house. Instead, I patiently say…

“Honey, do you know how cold it is outside?” He shrugs nonchalantly. Does this mean that he doesn’t know or that he does know and just doesn’t care? I try another tactic.

“Come here. Let’s look at the temperature.” I click on the screen of my smart phone until the screen changes to an icy blue and the number 14 shows up. “Honey, that’s the temperature. It’s too cold for that light jacket.” He sighs in frustration. He thinks I might be suggesting he wear a heavier, warmer coat. Uh, yes. I am.

Holding out hope that he’s not completely insane, I try another idea. “Open your jacket and let me see what you’re wearing underneath.”It’s possible he has on a long sleeved shirt. Or maybe an athletic Under Armor beneath a t-shirt. Something that indicates he understands that 14* is pretty d@#% cold. Oops. That’s not what a meditating yoga goddess would think.

I take a deep breath and let it out slowly as I see my child is wearing only a t-shirt from the summer. No sleeves. No Under Armor. No undershirt. Just a summer T.

I try one more time to be the blissfully peaceful, soft-spoken yoga mama I know I am. “Honey, you need to put on a long sleeved shirt.”

He emits another heavy sigh, as though I’m the one that’s crazy and suggesting something absolutely asinine. “Mom,” he says with emphasis. “Can I just wear another jacket over this one?”

I do an internal debate with myself. Two heavy jackets equal one big coat. I can end this discussion and get back to my meditation if I agree with this negotiation concession. “Yes.” He leaves, satisfied.

I close my eyes. I settle beneath my blanket. I breathe.

Sigh.

Is that my son sighing in my bedroom while I’m meditating? I open my eyes and turn my head to see him leaning on the door and looking out the window. In his own way, he’s meditating. That’s my baby.

But this Meditating Mom is done for today. I get up and leave him meditating on the rising sun.

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Can Yoga Really Wreck Your Body?

February 8, 2013

When I initially read the title of the New York Times article, How Yoga Can Wreck Your Body, I was ready to debate, argue and share my point of view. Then I read the article. And sadly, I agreed with most of it.

I started my personal Yoga journey at the age of 26 in 1997. Ashtanga (Power) Yoga was my introduction to a world that was foreign to me.  Nothing during my first year of Yoga remotely related to Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras or the Eight Limbs. And I did what I was taught – push, work, challenge beyond limits. I received a “Yoga certification” the next year at a weekend aerobics conference in Baltimore, Maryland. I still recall the instructor asking me to demonstrate a move for the class because I was flexible – and I thought I was the BOMB! As a Yoga teacher, I taught what had been taught to me. Work, push, challenge. All of it was ego-driven and the complete opposite of the actual principles and spirit of Yoga.

Injuries from years of running and high-impact aerobics made me begin a self-study of naturopathic wellness, orthomolecular nutrition, and alternative medicine. I began monthly treatments of acupuncture, reflexology and massage. I studied and practiced different forms of meditation and started a serious practice of Hatha Yoga and Mat Pilates. My approach to Yoga had completely changed. In fact, what I was practicing in 2007 was so vastly different from what I had started in 1997, it felt wrong to call them both Yoga.

In the NYT article, William Broad details the journey of classically trained Yoga instructor Glenn Black. The main points Mr. Black makes that I agree with are:

  • Instead of doing yoga, “they [students] need to be doing a specific range of motions for articulation, for organ condition,” he said, to strengthen weak parts of the body. “Yoga is for people in good physical condition. Or it can be used therapeutically. It’s controversial to say, but it really shouldn’t be used for a general class.”
  • A number of factors have converged to heighten the risk of practicing yoga. The biggest is the demographic shift in those who study it. Indian practitioners of yoga typically squatted and sat cross-legged in daily life, and yoga poses were an outgrowth of these postures. Now urbanites who sit in chairs all day walk into a studio a couple of times a week and strain to twist themselves into ever-more-difficult postures despite their lack of flexibility and other physical problems.
  • There is now an abundance of studios where many teachers lack the deeper training necessary to recognize when students are headed toward injury. “Today many schools of yoga are just about pushing people,” Black said. “You can’t believe what’s going on — teachers jumping on people, pushing and pulling and saying, ‘You should be able to do this by now.’ It has to do with their egos.”

I disagree with the article in that I don’t believe Yoga will wreck your body – a poor Yoga instructor can wreck your body. Instead of avoiding Yoga, aspiring students should visit studios, observe a class before taking it, and ask the following questions:

  • Is the instructor teaching only on the mat or is he or she watching, moving, touching and aware of each student in the class? A teacher that treats the class like his or her personal workout or opportunity to shine will not be able to provide safe correction and alternatives for students in need.
  • Is the teacher pushing or pulling on students or gently guiding individuals into natural, safe and comfortable positions?
  • Are there props like chairs, blocks, blankets, belts, or pillows available? If so, does the instructor use them or share techniques about their use in assisting poses?
  • Does the class leader explain poses and offer alternate moves? A well-educated instructor will be able to discuss a pose from the perspective of anatomy and kinesiology as well as from an internal and organic point of view.

Like snowflakes, no two Yoga instructors are alike. Choose yours as carefully as you choose your physician or hair stylist. A bad perm can ruin your day, but a bad pose can ruin your body.

Cancer II

February 25, 2012

I’ve put off writing this blog for over a year. That’s how long it’s been since I wrote the blog “Cancer” about my sister-friend, Yvonne. It was Labor Day 2010 when I spent the night in her hospital room at the Northside Cancer Center. We laughed, talked, gossiped, discussed business and watched television like any other day we’d spend together in Atlanta. Neither one of us believed we’d be where we are today.

Yvonne & Althea dancing @ AYM

Acute Myelogenous Leukemia (AML) is what she has. The only cure is a successful bone marrow transplant from a donor that matches your marrow. Yvonne’s mother, Liz, was a partial match and the bone marrow transplant in March 2011 was successful. Yvonne was in full remission and we were excited, happy and counting our blessings… for four months. As she and I joyfully made plans to attend my family’s annual Thanksgiving celebration in Myrtle Beach, she received the news that the leukemia cells had returned. We were both in shock, confused, and full of disbelief. Hundreds of questions and several bone marrow and blood tests later, it was confirmed. Yvonne spent Thanksgiving 2011 in the hospital and I was miserable without my sister-friend.

Yvonne & Althea @ Annual Cuttino Thanksgiving Dinner 2009

Yesterday was February 24, 2012. We sat together with her sister, Ferus, in an isolation room of the Cancer Center. Yvonne was crying and looking soulfully into my eyes. My eyes filled with tears as I stared honestly back into hers. Even though I stopped cursing a few years ago, the only thing I could think to say to her in that moment was, “This is some bullshit.” And she nodded in agreement with only a hint of a smile.

The oncologist had just confirmed that the latest round of chemo that had left my friend’s body frail and weak hadn’t worked. Yvonne and I had discussed this moment many times over the last year and a half, and we’d decided that if it came to this, she’d stopped fighting and let God do what was going to be done. February 24, 2012 was the day of that final decision. I pulled out my computer, which is never far away, and started recording, through my tears, what her wishes were for her house, car, jewelry, and clothing. My attorney, had already started putting together her will and these were the last remaining items to fill in the blanks. We made tearful phone calls to both of our mothers, my husband and our Pastor. And I did what I always do – handled business.

As I wiped her tears and typed her wishes and talked to people she couldn’t talk to, flashes of our friendship slipped in and out of my thoughts. And as the memories flickered through my mind, I knew why we’d never referred to each other as friends. We’re truly sisters – more than many siblings linked by blood.

In 1999, I “accidentally” tried out for a semi-professional basketball league’s cheerleading team. I was the second-oldest woman there at 28, had no professional dance experience, and was the mother of a 10-month old. I never expected to make the team and simply was there to have fun. The sound tech that day of the try-outs was a heavy-set, happy woman… Yvonne D. Carroll. She was supportive to all of the us trying out, but was truly happy to see me make the squad.

A month later, I was surprised to see that sound tech teaching a high-energy step aerobics class at the Bally’s where I was the new Group Exercise Director. We talked, we clicked and she became my assistant. When I left Bally’s to run another company’s aerobic program, Yvonne came with me as my assistant. When I decided to make an aerobics video, Yvonne was right there in my cast. A year later, when I filmed my first cable fitness show, Yvonne was on my left smiling into the camera and grapevining right. When I hit the fitness presenter circuit, there was no one I would trust more to handle selling my videos and managing the money than Yvonne. When I needed someone to watch my babies while I presented or taught, Yvonne was my girl and had my back.

Yvonne selling Altheatized videos

I remember talking to my husband one weekend and discussing how I could give back to someone who had done so much for our family so selflessly. I’d been teaching fitness at resorts in Jamaica for several years and thought it would be great to give Yvonne a week’s vacation in Jamaica. So I did! I didn’t realize at the time how much of a gift the trip would be.

Yvonne had never flown on a plane before. Her first flight ever was on Jamaica Air out of Baltimore into Montego Bay, and it was the funniest flight I’ve EVER taken in my life. I laughed so hard, the flight attendant and the passengers around us were alarmed and thought I’d gone crazy. Yvonne is a funny, funny chick. I remember trying to get her to look out the window at the water and palm trees lining the runway of the Montego Bay airport as we landed. She gripped the armrests until her hands were hurting and refused to turn toward the windows. I’m laughing through my tears as I type this with the memory.

We actually invited six of our girlfriends to accompany us on the trip, but Yvonne and I arrived two days earlier so she could have a full week of fun and sun. She and I explored the city and hung out with a couple of my friends from the island. When our girlfriends arrived, it was a non-stop party that to this day has not been rivaled in any of my journeys to the Caribbean. What happens in Jamaica stays in Jamaica. (I’m smiling through my tears)

Yvonne, Althea & the Girls in Jamaica

In 2005, my husband and I decided to relocate our family and my business from Baltimore to Atlanta. It took a couple of years for us to get settled and for me to decide what I wanted to do with my fitness career. In 2007, I found the perfect spot to open a dance, Yoga and fitness studio. I have a degree in business and worked in corporate America for a few years prior to starting my own company in 1996. All of my education and experience taught me several things, but number one was… you can’t do everything yourself. If I was going to open a studio, I needed someone I trusted to be with me. Yvonne was my only choice.

But Yvonne had lived in Maryland her entire life. Her family and childhood friends were all there. She had a job with Maryland Corrections where she’d worked her way up to the second highest rank of Major. Why would she leave all that to come help me run a fitness studio in Atlanta? Only she knows the answer, but she did. So, in June 2008, she retired after 22 years, sold her condo in Maryland, packed up her life and moved into a cute little house 7 minutes from our house in Georgia. Even though AYM stands for Aerobics, Yoga & More, most of our close friends and family say it stands for Althea, Yvonne & Maurice (my husband). In my heart, it does. (I’m crying again)

Yvonne & Maurice in the construction of AYM

The first two years of our running AYM was bumpy and more than a learning experience. We fought, we cried, we laughed and we learned. We grew closer than friends or sisters. We started speaking the same way – no one could tell us apart on the phone. We shopped together, ate together, partied together, traveled together. We became extensions of one another. We were together so much, my brother literally started calling her Entourage instead of Yvonne. (I’m smiling again) My kids consider her their aunt just like my brother is their uncle. My mother considers her another daughter and all of my uncles and aunts look for her when I come to family gatherings. We are sisters.

For so many years, Yvonne was my rock and my back. For the last two years, I’ve had to be hers. Hospital transfers, oncology visits, bills, lawyers, difficult family phone calls. I’ve handled it all just like she would have done for me – without a second thought and selflessly. People keep saying how much they appreciate what I’m doing for Yvonne, but they don’t understand what she’s done for me. Sometimes I write better than I speak. This blog is the explanation. It’s my way of saying thank you to my sister for helping me live out my dreams. For always believing in me and trusting that I could do whatever I imagined. In front of people, I’m always calm and rational and smile – always. I don’t like drama – never have. But in the privacy of my car and home, I let the pain and tears flow freely. I’m not crying for me, I’m crying because I know Yvonne isn’t done yet. She’s not done having firsts. And I’m not done experiencing them with her. So we’ll see how many more we can fit into this life together. As Yvonne and I always say… Cancer sucks.

Talia, Yvonne & Althea celebrating Yvonne's birthday

Althea & Yvonne in Myrtle Beach

Yvonne, Althea & Mom in Chicago