Thank you for sharing your story with us and our readers.
Please tell us a little about your book, The Yoga of Parenting, which recently won NAPPA Awards. What led you to write it.
I often say that my book, The Yoga of Parenting, is less of a “how-to-parent” manual and more of a “how-are-you, the Parent?” guide. It’s a conscious parenting book that aims to help parents stay grounded, so they can show up fully and compassionately (with themselves and their families). Most parenting books are behavior and child focused. I was finding myself overwhelmed trying to memorize the perfect script to say to my unruly toddler and when the script didn’t work, I would often feel bad about myself as a mom. I noticed that I was looking outside of myself for the answers. When I slowed down and started to pay attention to my intuition, I was able to parent much more authentically. I wanted to create a book that cultivated that energy in parenting. A book to help people anchor into themselves and to parent from their heart.
How and when did you become interested in yoga? When did you start teaching?
My first foray into yoga was actually as a bit of a joke. For my 19th birthday, my dad sent me a box of gag gifts to imply I was getting “older” (hilarious to think about now that I’m 42). It included a number of items to combat aging, including a yoga VHS. My roommate and I popped it in, fully expecting to be laughing and poking fun, but before we knew it, we were both transfixed. Fun fact, my college roommate Allison Duckworth is also a yoga teacher in the Pacific Northwest.
I started teaching in 2008. I took the typical LA story route of working in the film business out of college, but the stress was overwhelming. When my mom was diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer, it was all too much. I walked off the Paramount Lot and into the Center for Yoga studio on Larchmont and never looked back.
How is parenting and yoga related?
When most of us hear the word yoga, we automatically assume poses. The West has commodified the practice to be exercise, but yoga is so much more than that. Yoga is about connection and unity. The body just happens to be one vehicle we use to do that. But many other practices fall under the umbrella of yoga, such as meditation, prayer, devotion, celebration. Really anything you do with a present mind and clear heart can be considered yoga.
Defining yoga in this way made me pause and realize, OMG! Parenting is a yoga practice. Everything I do in parenting has the underlying intention of connection. There’s the obvious desire to connect with our kids, but also the need to connect with ourselves (self-care, boundaries, values) and something bigger than us (trust, non–attachment, faith).
How has parenthood changed you?
It’s funny, so many people talk about motherhood changing them, but I really feel like I’m more myself than ever. The wisdom traditions teach us that we are all love and our true Nature is light and connection. But then as we go through childhood and teenage years and adulthood, we forget that truth. We start to see ourselves through other’s eyes or society’s lens. Motherhood helped me see clearly again. Looking at my sons who are just so perfect and pure, reminded me that I am the same! Just as you, the reader, are. Everyone has that purity and heart inside of them. Now, my life’s mission is to help people reconnect to that place within themselves. It’s not an easy practice. It requires a lot of chipping away of social conditioning and old beliefs, but beneath it all is something so magnificent. Imagine loving and accepting ourselves as much as we do our kids?
How do you use your yoga practice in your role as a mom?
I use my yoga practice in every instance of my parenting. From taking deep breaths to being able to withstand discomfort, my yoga informs every interaction. In a more obvious sense, there is the physicality of parenting two young boys. It’s a lot of energy and movement, so having a movement practice helps me with the pillow fighting and crawling around on the floor. Mentally, my meditation practice trains me on presence. It’s not always easy! I’m often distracted or fatigued, but having a steady meditation practice gives me a baseline of what is possible. My practice also provides a levity and lens of temporality. Yoga teachings remind us that everything is changing all the time. Nothing is constant, except love. We see this when our bodies feel different on the mat day to day, or our minds are unruly one day and focused the next. Remembering that “it’s all temporary” informs my parenting in the most challenging times and the most joyous times.
What are some practical ways that parents can bring the art of yoga into their daily lives?
The first thing is to notice your breath. I like setting reminders throughout the day to breathe. That could be an alarm on your phone saying BREATHE or post-it’s sprinkled throughout your home and in your car (since we live in our cars in L.A.). Another thing my friend Tara Stiles talks about a lot is body position. Noticing how you are holding yourself moment to moment. Are you tense and hunched over? Are you making yourself small? Or making yourself larger than you need to? It’s a practice of proprioception and paying attention to where we are in space is actually a great energy management tool. Introspection is key too. Journal, go to therapy, having a parent group. We call it self-study in the yoga world. Continue to look at your role and your part, your thoughts and your behaviors, because those are the things you can control.
Did you have a mentor growing up? And what role did that person play in your life and your career?
I’ve had many mentors over the years. In the yoga world, I would say my two main yoga teachers were Maty Ezraty, who founded YogaWorks in 1989, and Annie Carpenter. They both taught me how to slow down and to pay attention to the details. I was always high energy and fast-moving (frankly, I still am!), but Maty & Annie taught me to let my breath set the pace of things. They taught me to trust in the process. More recently, Jaycee Gossett who’s a teacher at The Class in Santa Monica is an unexpecting mentor. Her classes are therapy sessions for me and every time I study under her, I practice unconditional love and radical acceptance.
My parenting mentors include a number of very wise teachers, including Kimberly Ann Johnson, who wrote The Fourth Trimester, and who I’m super excited to study with this January. Kimberly teaches me the critical importance of self-care and how to honor the primal and transformative process of motherhood and womanhood. From afar, I’ve always greatly admired Dr. Shefali Tsabary. My wish is to learn directly from her one day! She’s the queen of conscious parenting.
When not working, where will we find you?
Ha, I feel like I’m always working, because that’s kind of my default approach to life. The times I can truly turn it off are meditating, breastfeeding my littlest, enjoying sunsets with my eldest, with my mom friends, doing mindful movement, and napping!
What would you tell your middle school self?
Oh man, middle school was rough. I had a really hard time finding where I fit in. I remember a lot of tears, but I also remember a lot of laughter. I would tell that little Sarah, “This is a blip! Just get through it.” I would reassure her that as permanent as everything feels, nothing is. I’d tell her that she is perfect exactly as she is and to not stop shining her light.