leaving the scars behind, by robin marino

Editor’s Note: I am honored to feature this guest post from friend and fellow barre teacher, Robin Marino.  Robin was there to support me and as I shared my story at a recent event for the Jeanne Geiger Crisis Center, which prompted her to share this piece about her own history of abuse in the form of childhood bullying .  -Andrea

robin

I am sitting in the audience, listening to someone I find truly inspiring talk about her history with abuse.  When she says that abuse chooses no one “type”, I believe her.  I believe that this is true.  Except for me.  My name is Robin Marino, and I was bullied.  A lot.  And for many years.  Although I have long forgiven the people who bullied me, the effect it has had on me – the way that it has informed my life – is monumental.  The fact that I could sit on that floor and still think about all the things I should have said, done, or been –  makes me sad,  At age 41, there is a large part of me that feels like the bullying was my fault.  I was weak, I was weird, I was annoying, I was emotional.  If I *hadn’t* been any of those things, I never would have been targeted.  It’s amazing the things we can believe about ourselves.  If someone else said that to me, I would be the first to say “that’s crazy!”.  Sometimes even a Women’s Studies degree can’t save you from yourself until you really let yourself see the bigger picture.

I was always a little different.  Growing up in a day when not many people talked about sensory processing disorder, I was that child.  In that time I was diagnosed with ADHD, but regardless, I was sensitive to everything and everyone.  In 1st grade I was teased in the cafeteria – I was known as Skinny Bones (I know; poor me…but trust me that a 1st grader does not care about her skinny badge of honor).  For me, real bullying didn’t start until 6th grade, and then I had layers of bullies.  In the classroom, my “best friend” would bully me one minute, then become my confidant the next.  It was a crazy roller coaster of mindplay, but I felt like I had no choice but to stay friends, despite wedgies in the hall (yes, funny, but no, not so much when it’s you) and spit in my hair.

But that was child’s play until my second layer of bullying came along.  Listening on the bus one afternoon to some 5th graders gossip about one of my classmates’ sisters, I decided to pass the information along.  Maybe I thought it would give me a leg up in my classroom; I don’t know.  As often happens when you choose to get involved, it came back to bite me.  The sister was not the least bit upset with the girls talking about her, but life as I knew it at school, on the bus, and in the neighborhood was over.  For 3 years, I lived in fear.  I was always looking over my shoulder, waiting for my bullies.  And did I mention they were younger than me?  The shame of that is something you can’t imagine unless you’ve been there.

Verbal and physical abuse was everywhere.  Gum on my seat, spitty lifesavers stuck to my jacket on the bus, anything and everything thrown at me – and said to me.  Almost an entire bus turned against me rather than stand up for me. Those layers of bullying I mentioned – one more layer added as soon more people joined their “team”.  I remember a particularly mortifiying experience in which I babysat next door to one of my bullies.  In order for the father to drive me home, he needed to have his neighbor – my bully – watch the kids temporarily.  Scared beyond belief, I hid in the garage until the father came out to get into the car.  Suffice it to say that I was never asked back.
robin2
In 8th grade, my sister pleaded with my parents to do something.  It’s not that they didn’t want to before; I had asked them not to.  But the day I came home with life savers stuck all over my blue winter jacket, I was so beyond defeated that I would have done anything to make it stop. So my dad did what any loving father would do when his daughter was in pain – he made it go away.  My very quiet, non-confrontational dad called each of the girls’ dads and told them to stop.  While the shame that goes along with having your dad stand up to your year-younger-than-you bullies is crushing, the peace that goes along with having it all stop is worth it.  In the middle of 8th grade, I was free.  I could walk the halls without fear.  That is priceless.

One of the things that still strikes me to this day is both fathers’ response to my dad – “We try to let the kids work things out on their own”.  In the 80′s, there was a lot of that going on.  The bus driver on my bus literally pretended like nothing was happening.  My 6th grade teacher did the same.  My neighborhood friends riding the bus were too scared to do or say anything so they remained silent – or joined in.  I don’t blame them – any of them.  It wasn’t a culture of “If you see something, say something”.  We’ve come a long way.  That said, bullying is a lot more in our face, and the stakes are so much higher.  In this cyberculture of hiding behind our words, we can wound each other with one press of a key. But finally we are realizing that these kids – the ones without a way to climb out of their pain – cannot do it alone.  Even as a 6th grader, I knew something wasn’t right.

Fast forward to me sitting in the audience, thinking about abuse.  That while my friend is categorically not responsible for her experience with domestic violence, I am, however, responsible for having been bullied.  Interesting dichotomy here.  Why?  Because I was the one who eavesdropped on the bus.  Because I was different.  Because I was weak.  Because.  I am far from perfect.  I picked on people.  I am opinionated.  I can be judgmental.  But I will always teach my children not to bully – and perhaps more importantly, to see the bullying around them.

Bullying is a systematic way of keeping someone down.  There is still a little girl inside me who is a victim, who is still “kept down” by the memories, the pain, the shame – this time, by herself.  I spent a lot of years trying to make myself smaller through starving myself.  If I was small, then no one could find me; no one could hurt me.  If I was small, I was better.  Everyone likes small.  Everyone likes better.  But I am starting to believe this for myself:  nothing happened to me because I wasn’t that better version of myself.  Sometimes things just happen.  The bullying left scars.  Now I’m leaving the scars behind.

-By Robin Marino

if you’re going to do a cleanse this spring, do this one!

Food Focused Nutrition Program

There are so many “cleanses” out there that simply will not give you the nourishment you need.  Whether in the  form of a juice fast or elimination diet, consuming too few calories and nutrients is simply not a healthy plan.  It may result in short term water weight loss, but this is almost always regained immediately afterward and in the meantime these plans play havoc with your metabolism, mood and energy levels.

Julie Starr-Wood, MS, CNS, has put together a healthy option that she calls the STRIP cleanse:

STRIP is a 10-day professionally guided, interactive, food-focused nutrition program.  This program will STRIP away the unnecessary food and unhealthy habits from your diet that may contribute to  inflammation, digestive issues, weight gain and bloating, and add in foods that will help you feel and look your best. In just ten days, you will have a strong foundation and the essential tools to propel you forward into your health goals.

I recently participated in Julie’s STRIP program and was pleasantly surprised by how energized I felt, as well as the reduction in aches and pains when eliminating certain inflammatory foods from my diet!  Julie also put together a Facebook community where those of us participating could share recipes, ideas and questions, which actually made it, dare I say, fun?  :)

The next round starts 5/12/14!  You can sign up online, click on the “Workshops” tab, and be sure to enter promo code: MAYSPECIAL for a 20% discount!

standing powerfully

rasamaya collage

OK, it’s official.  Right now is the most powerful point in my life (so far.)  I was recently honored to be a guest speaker to raise awareness for the Jeanne Geiger Crisis Center, serving the greater Newburyport, MA area.  Why was I asked to speak?  Because years ago, I was one of their clients, someone who needed a place to turn, and who came to them seeking help putting my life back together after domestic violence.

For the past several years, it has been my dream to begin sharing my story — this was in fact one of the reasons I created this blog.  Speaking up on behalf of the crisis center gave me an opportunity to fulfill this wish, to help shine a light on where I and countless others have been.  Breaking the silence around domestic violence is essential if we want to remove the stigma and shame around this topic so that those suffering from abuse can speak up and get the help they need.  It has also given me the chance to reflect on how far I’ve come and what a different place I’m at in my life these days.  I feel empowered and successful, and I am so grateful for that.

I participated in two events, the first of which was at the beautiful new home of Rasamaya studio in Newburyport, MA, owned by my dear friend Carrie Tyler.*  It was no accident when the universe matched me and Carrie up a few years ago, and she remains an inspiration to me every day.  She is a powerhouse, not only as an incredibly knowledgeable and masterful yoga and movement teacher, but as a visionary entrepreneur, creative spirit, and champion of women’s empowerment in every form.  She is one of the few people that understands my passion and excitement for feminist activism, one of the few who understand the word ‘feminist’ to be something alive with inclusion and possibility as I do.

With my notes (and tissues) in hand, I stood before the crowd, many of whom I’d known as neighbors, colleagues and students years ago, and told them that, unbeknownst to them at the time, I’d been fighting the biggest struggle of my life in those days.  I told them that I’d been ashamed for them to know my life was such a mess, ashamed of the choices I had made that had led to that.  I told them that it was food stamps and Christmas gifts donated to the Salvation Army that got my family through that first year, struggling not just with my own healing, but with single parenting as well.  Despite the challenges, that was the year I enrolled in college for the last time (as a Women’s Studies major, and eventually graduated!), the year I began to teach, the year I met the partner who has been by my side ever since, the year I learned how strong my body could be, as I came back to the barre day after day and watched myself transform, inside and out.

I am grateful that there was a place I could turn to plant the seeds of renewal that would eventually sprout.  That I was given legal advocacy at a time when I had no idea how I would provide for my family, a time when I lived in fear for my life, not just everyday worry, but truly fearing that I might actually be killed.  It has been a long road, and all of that feels well behind me now.  Maybe that’s why now is the perfect time for me to begin speaking up.

When domestic violence landed me on the x-ray table of an emergency room, our neighbors and friends would never have believed it.  We seemed normal, even successful.  We seemed to have it all.  What I have seen to be true more and more in the years since, is that abuse happens EVERYWHERE, to every ‘type’ of person.  I hope that my sharing will help put a face to this issue that is so much easier NOT to talk about.  It is so important that we DO talk about it.

The response that I got afterward from those in attendance meant so much to me.  To see how many in the crowd wiped away tears of empathy as I shared my story, and to have them thank me and shake my hand afterward was so rewarding, when I was asked to speak at a second event, I did not hesitate to accept.

I’ve had many years to heal from my experience, and I don’t doubt that the trials I’ve been through have made me stronger.  I want to say, without belittling the severity of my experience, that I have made peace with this chapter of my life and with the abuser as well.  I believe if there is no hope for abusers, there is no hope for any of us.  We are all one.  I look forward to continuing with this work that is so important to me.  Not only to reach out to support those who have been victims of abuse, but to help solve the problem of how we can create a world that does not produce abuse in the first place.  This is my passion and my mission, and I thank you for reading this post.  By taking the time to learn more instead of turning away, you have already brought us one step closer.

Thank you,
Andrea Isabelle Lucas
Founder and Owner, Barre & Soul, LLC

 

*Barre & Soul is honored to include Carrie Tyler as a member of the teaching staff for our Spring 2014 Barre Teacher Training.

if you want to achieve greatness…

Happy New Year everyone!  Here’s a post I did a few weeks back for the Lexington Power Yoga blog.  I thought I would share it with you here.  I hope you are feeling fulfilled and inspired in this new year.  If you’re looking for a great book to help fan your creative flames, please read on for one of my all time favorites.

Lexington Yoga

photo by lucie wicker photography

Last December I hit a rough patch.  In the wake of some very tragic events in the news, I became depressed.  In addition to that, an undercurrent of dissatisfaction had been lingering in me. This would often show up in the form of sour grapes when I saw what others were doing in their careers.

Every time I logged onto social media I came away feeling awful.

It seemed like ‘everyone’ was doing BIG things.  I knew I should feel happy for my friends and colleagues, but mostly I just felt left out.

Luckily, I went in search of healing for a bothersome hamstring issue with a talented acupuncturist and body worker that winter.  When she looked at me, she saw that something deeper was wrong.  She noticed my low energy and sadness immediately.  She asked me what projects I was working on.

She asked me why I wasn’t performing, writing, or creating, pointing out that my face had lit up at the very mention of the subject.

In addition to some excellent acupuncture, body work, and vitamin D, she gave me a reading assignment: The War of Art, by Stephen Pressfield.

war-of-art

Is there a more clichéd descriptor than ‘life-changing?’  Never mind, I don’t care.  Frankly there is no better way to describe my experience with this book.  If I am lucky, the legacy I hope to leave will be to have written a book that changes lives as this book has done for me.  It may have just been the right message at the right time, but I was transformed by this very important piece of work.  

I won’t spoil it by trying to recreate the book’s message.  It wouldn’t do it justice, and anyway, you could easily read it cover-to-cover in one day.  It is concise, riveting and to the point.  The author seemed to be personally calling me out on the fact that there was something better, more authentic, more inspiring that I wanted to be doing, and that I wasn’t doing it.  The book also showed me that the key to doing it was already inside me.

At an event earlier that December, I’d been prompted to come up with a mantra that would serve me well in the face of challenges.  I couldn’t quite articulate it yet but I knew it had something to do with giving myself approval instead of seeking it from others.  Soon after reading The War of Art, I happened upon an image created by street artist Eddie Colla.  The image read:

If you want to achieve greatness, stop asking for permission.

Just like that, I had found my mantra.

 

greatness

One of the things I knew after finishing The War of Art was that being an entrepreneur was important to me, and it was time to stop avoiding it.  I saw that a huge boom in the fitness world was happening around barre workouts.  I had been teaching this method for 6 years, often trying to explain it to people who had never heard of it.  Now this cult favorite in which I had spent thousands of hours was becoming a mainstream trend.

I saw many businesses trying to offer barre, and honestly, they didn’t seem to be doing it very well.  Some instructors I spoke to mentioned one-weekend trainings.  I couldn’t imagine how anyone could learn in a weekend what it took me hundreds of hours to learn, and to teach to other trainees in my former role as a manager and teacher trainer for a large fitness corporation.  I knew there was no reason to stand on the sidelines.

I would create my own barre and yoga business, one that stood not only for excellence but also for humanity, inspiration, and connection.

By the end of January, the seed of Barre & Soul began to sprout.  In May, I taught the first Barre & Soul class at Lexington Power Yoga, always loving the Lexington Yoga community!  By August, I was the owner of my own studio (Barre & Soul Studio, formerly B Yoga Center of Melrose), and in October I brought Barre & Soul to Equinox in Boston.  I can’t wait to see what is next for this venture!

These days, when I have time to look at social media, I am no longer jealous of the accomplishments of others.  My life is not perfect, but I love it.  I feel empowered.  Being an entrepreneur leaves me feeling self-expressed and fulfilled, and I know this is only the beginning of a long and creative career.

I think for a long time, I had been waiting for some kind of green light to get started.  As though I would receive a tap on the shoulder when it was my turn.  Thankfully, I realized that this is rarely the way things work.  If we want to do something great, we only need to give ourselves permission to start.  I’m so happy I did.

ditch dieting and love your life now

I’m loving this beautiful and honest post on Huffington Post this morning:

An Open Apology to All of My Weight Loss Clients

 

And that’s mostly why I’m sorry. Because I’ve been played for years, and so have you, and inadvertently, I fed into the lies you’ve been told your whole life. The lies that say that being healthy means nothing unless you are also thin. The lies that say that you are never enough, that your body is not a beautiful work of art, but rather a piece of clay to be molded by society’s norms until it becomes a certain type of sculpture. And even then, it is still a work in progress.

I know I can relate, and agree with pretty much every word Iris Higgins writes in this piece. Check it out!

Happy weekend,

Andrea Isabelle, founder of  Barre &  Soul, Melrose Yoga Studio.

aerial yoga with andrea featured on fit or fad!

LOVING this great video just released on Fit or Fad with comedian Kelly McFarland, with help from some amazing friends and yoga students! (I couldn’t figure out how to embed the video here, but you can click on the image below to be taken to it.)

aerial snapshot

This was a BLAST!! You can read more about the class in this blog post by one of my students.

Thank you to Kelly, to Fit or Fad, and to all the students who participated!  And a big thank you to South Boston Yoga for letting us use your awesome aerial room!

Try Aerial Yoga MA at Barre & Soul, Melrose Yoga Studio.

want to start feeling better about yourself right now?

jean kilbourne photo

Back in April, which feels like a million years ago, I had the opportunity to meet one my personal sheroes – Jean Kilbourne, when she came to speak at a YWCA fundraiser luncheon.  She presented one of her signature talks on women’s portrayal in advertising.  I had seen this on video before, but it was wonderful to be able to stalk-ishly introduce myself and I even got to chat with her a bit about body image in the fitness space.

I urge you to check out this brief trailer of her work:

It is incredibly challenging but necessary to remind ourselves to question, and even laugh at, the advertising images that bombard us.  They are designed to make us feel like we’re not enough so that we will BUY STUFF!

Every time I look at an ad, I think, What is this ad trying to say?

The answer is usually insulting/preposterous, depending on your point of view.  Take this one for example, which I pass by many mornings on my way to class in Boston’s Financial District.  It’s for an upscale nightclub and pictures a grown woman dressed as Red Riding Hood as a man looks on in the background.  I’ve seen this thing in magazines, plastered on buses, etc…

red riding hood

What is the message here?  “Come to this bar, where men are wolves, and women are prey?”  Other than the attractiveness of the models, what exactly is “Red Hot” about this?  Maybe I’m missing something?  WTF?? Honestly people…

I wish we could just block it all out, the onslaught of images selling intentionally unattainable perfection, the demoralizing messages — but that’s not happening any time soon!  For now we’ll just have to keep on reminding ourselves not to get sucked in.

Jean Kilbourne has written several books, I plan to start reading her latest soon.

 

my first aerial routine – rehearsal video

Hope you all had a great weekend!  Mine was pretty full with teaching, family, and working on the new business.  I admit, I can get a little obsessive with work projects so I took the kids to the Boston Rock Gym for a little climbing and some time on the silks.  There’s nothing like physical exertion to get you out of your head for a while!

Thought I’d share this video of a basic aerial routine I’m working on — it’s actually my first!  I’m no Cirque du Soleil performer yet but I’m so glad I picked up this hobby and look forward to continuing to develop my skills.

It’s never too late to start something new — the first time I touched the silks I was 29 or 30.  Not that that’s old!  My point is I didn’t grow up doing this, or even doing gymnastics for that matter.  My favorite quote:

“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago.  The next best time is today.”
-Chinese Proverb

Have a great week!
Andrea

You can experience Aerial Yoga MA at Barre and Soul, Melrose, MA

only the most exciting news (that you may have already heard)

Barre & Soul Logo

 

I am pleased to announce the creation of my new business venture!

Introducing… Barre & Soul, LLC!

Barre & Soul offers signature barre classes at select studios.  Our first location is Lexington Power Yoga in Lexington, Mass, and classes are already underway!  In the coming months, Barre & Soul will expand to additional locations, starting with partner studios and eventually opening our own freestanding studios.  If you are interested in opening a licensed Barre & Soul studio anywhere in the world, or if you currently own a studio in the Boston area and would like to partner with Barre & Soul, please email us at info[at]barresoul.com.

And if you are interested in training to become a Barre & Soul teacher, please get in touch as well!  Teacher trainings will be offered starting this summer and fall.

Where Barre & Soul came from:

I’ve been teaching barre since 2007, and for years I would try to explain to people what I did, and why it was sooo awesome, while they stared at me with puzzled expressions.  But not any more!  Barre has finally gone mainstream and word is out about this amazing, safe, effective method of exercise.  Now that there is so much demand for barre, I thought I would put my years of experience as a teacher and teacher trainer to work in developing my own program.

Over the last several years, my journey has led me from the barre to the yoga mat.  There were things lacking for me in my barre practice that I could only get in yoga, like backbending, back strengthening, meditation, an open heart and a sense of oneness with others.  But in yoga, I sometimes missed the incredibly effective results of the barre practice.  What if I could create a program that blended the best of both worlds?  That’s what I’ve tried to foster with Barre & Soul’s signature classes.

Barre & Soul Class Description:

Live powerfully, love your body! This one-hour class combines ballet conditioning, interval cardio, Pilates, yoga and meditation to strengthen your core, lengthen your muscles, center your mind and lift your spirits! Pioneered in the 1950s by professional dancer Lotte Berk, barre classes have proven effective for decades at producing impressive total-body toning and flexibility results while maintaining the utmost safety and accessibility for all students.   

This barre class picks up where others leave off by incorporating even more of the beneficial practices of yoga – playful arm balances, back strengthening and back bending to counter deep core work and keep the body in balance, inspiring mantras, meditation, and a philosophy centered in mindfulness, gratitude, compassion and interconnection. 

Over time, I’ll be moving more and more of my business under the Barre & Soul umbrella, including my yoga and aerial yoga classes.  Please help support the growth of this newly sprouted seed by liking our Barre & Soul Facebook Page!

barre & soul facebook

Thank you!

Andrea

beloved boston, keep faith in humanity

ghandi faith in humanity

When I saw the first images yesterday and the news began to sink in about the terrifying events that were unfolding in our beloved city, I felt “it.”  The same feeling I had after learning of the tragedy not long ago in Newtown, CT.

It was the familiar tug of despair, threatening to pull me down.

Yesterday had been a relaxing day off for our family and, if we’d been feeling a little more adventurous, we might have been there with our kids at the scene where this horrifying violence was now occurring in our beautiful and vibrant Boston. As my mind went over this possibility, I was flooded with  hopelessness, the inside of my body feeling like a dark pit, empty except for this question:

HOW DO WE KEEP THEM SAFE???

My children, all of our children, how do we protect them from such unexpected cruelty?

As initial news reports were unclear in those first few moments, I went immediately to social media, searching for answers, knowing so many people I know and care for would be close to the scene and praying they could provide some kind of reassurance.

It was touching to see the outpouring of love and concern on Facebook, and a relief to learn that many of my friends were reporting they were OK.  However, there were no real reassurances to be had.  It didn’t matter whether the people hurt or killed in this event were folks I knew or not. It didn’t make it any more OK. I grieved for whoever had been in the path of the explosion.

We grieve for them because we are all one.

Over the last day or so, I have been fighting to not let the fear and grief take me down. I will cry, yes. But I will not despair.

dalai lama on tragedy

We cannot afford to give up hope. Unfortunately, we can’t know whether or not we can keep our children safe. But we cannot afford to stop trying.

I will tell myself that the world is not unraveling.

I heard someone point out on public radio today that, sadly, humanity has a long history of war and violence. If we look back at events such as the Holocaust, the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the Crusades, we cannot say that we live in a time when things are getting worse.  We need not jump to that conclusion.

The devastation that occurred yesterday was the result of a single act.

I will not even call the person or group who did this evil.  I believe we all possess the same divine light and capacity for good. This was an action.  A drop in the ocean of loving actions being carried out all over the Boston area and beyond, before the tragedy, during, and after.

It gives me hope to see the outpouring of love and generosity from my fellow Bostonians and in fact the rest of the country and the world.

Boston, I love you. Don’t give up. We will not succumb to hatred, resignation or bitterness. We can get better. We have to.

When something like this happens, our instincts tell us we must help. One friend who was near the blast told me today that she had to fight with herself to force her body to run away from the scene as the police ordered her to evacuate. Her soul was pulling her like a magnet, telling her to run toward the victims and try to help someone.

We all want to help. In the coming weeks I’m sure many opportunities to do so will emerge. Many people are opting to donate blood. The city of Boston has set up a fund for the victims.  Individual fundraising pages are also being created.

If you are interested in donating to Boston Children’s Hospital, please consider making a $15 donation via my fundraising page.  

A portion of your donation will also help to bring healing to the people of Newtown, CT, a cause still on my heart and mind every day.

May all those who are affected by this trauma find healing, hope and peace.  May we come together in love and compassion.  May we remember that we are all one.  I promise to do my part to help our city heal.  I promise not to give up hope.

Love you Boston.

love boston