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Personal Essay on Being a Healthy Parent

My Hypothetical Daughter Propelled Me Into Next-Level Fitness


Image source: Pexels / Josh Willink

This year, just after reaching my annual dating quota of emotionally unavailable men, I suddenly wanted to get in shape for the daughter I haven't even birthed yet. Let me be even more transparent when I say that I'm also single right now, so the probability of nuclear family procreation is currently slim. But there was something about opening SHAKTIBARRE — the New York yoga-barre empowerment hub in Brooklyn (and soon in Harlem) — that made me feel like a mom already . . . and envision a few hypothetical children in the future, as well as the day I'll be a fit mom.

One fitness strategy I learned through creating SHAKTIBARRE that will inevitably benefit my future daughter was strength training. Let's start by saying that SHAKTIBARRE used to be an NYC family's garage that wasn't even on the market yet. In the time it took to renovate the space, I carried countless pieces of delivered furniture with my bare hands from my apartment a mile away — not to mention how many boxes I broke down and carried to the trash truck, how many shelves I scaled ladders for and lifted overhead, and how much dirt-moving, hammering, and rigorous cleaning it took to turn nearly 2,000 square feet of ceiling-less hazards into a beautiful and welcoming studio.

A month after opening my nephew was born, and I got to put my muscle gains into action by carrying 10 million (small exaggeration) bags of baby supplies to the studio and back every Friday, as I offered my only free day to babysit. Then came the "hold the baby for long enough in the most awkward pose ever just so he falls asleep" moments and a plethora of stroller hauling. Meanwhile, I was teaching anywhere between six and 12 classes per week. Needless to say, getting fit for the sake of an impending family of my own started becoming more and more real.


Image source: Corinne Wainer

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Mindful eating was the second strategy for fitness that SHAKTIBARRE taught me, meaning I could no longer isolate myself and binge (with a side of exercise addiction) when I had to lead and manage a team of 30. Our teachers, though close in age to me, became daughters in a way. Whether it was training them, helping them find subs, guiding them in their outside professional advancements, lending an ear during their sick times or family challenges, or other sacred shares, I felt a more profound reason to be healthy than ever before. I realized that though fit, I could be in even better mental shape, too. I was able to see how my work family and all the ways I needed to show up healthy and strong inspired even deeper yearnings to have a daughter of my own someday.


Image source: Corinne Wainer

The third fitness strategy I learned was flexibility. As a former four-sport athlete (soccer, ice hockey, lacrosse, and equestrian), I never had time to stretch. In other words: my yoga life was virtually nonexistent until about 10 years back. Once my fellow SHAKTIBARRE cofounder, Shauny Lamba, took me to my first yoga class, I realized not only how tight and unforgiving my body was but also how my mind was cycling through the same unproductive patterns and habits.

Fortunately, doing just as much "brain yoga" as I now do actual vinyasa motivated me to change my approach to dating as well. Now when I date, I'm thinking, "Can this person be a reliable, adventurous, special, and memorable leader? Can this person occupy less of my energy in a negative way and more in a manner that encourages me to make healthy time for my next level of fitness? Can we and our maybe baby go on epic hikes together — strong, snacking mindfully along the way, and able to stretch both our muscles and perspectives on the regular?"

It's not to say I need a husband and daughter to be my fittest self: my fitness inspiration is a higher purpose. SHAKTIBARRE and my nephew have been the best things I've witnessed in this lifetime, showing me the power of a bigger goal than being fit. Ironically, that more monumental aspiration of #daughtergoals makes me want to be even more fit. I've begun to focus on exercises that continually raise the bar for my strength and flexibility. While that "all the single ladies" necessity of being fit for yourself is what I'm 100 percent into, I must say envisioning the end of an Iron Man finish line, where I run with sweaty, outstretched arms toward a kid of my own, gives me all the feels and lets me know it's time to pause here so I can go train.

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