“The right mix of love and chaos.”
That’s how Baltimore mom and yoga/fitness instructor Sara Ware describes her family of five humans and two fur kids.
“A friend used those words to describe us and it always makes me smile,” said Sara. “Some days it feels more like chaos, but there’s almost always an underlying affection for one another.” And since her husband, John, is a photographer, all of that love and chaos gets photographed.
Right now, Sara and John are both working from home with all three of their kids (13-year-old daughter, 11-year-old son, and five-year-old son) remote learning from home as well. It’s a challenging juggling act — but there are silver linings. One of those? Discovering Rise Up coffee during quarantine. It’s now become a staple in their house — served with almond milk. Another one? Starting a backyard yoga program for families in their neighborhood.
Sara sat down with us (virtually!) to chat parenting, COVID-career pivoting, and unexpected opportunities.
Coffee with Sara Waire, Yoga & Fitness Instructor
Tell us how you got into teaching yoga and into helping others on their wellness journey.
After three kids, I found myself with a weak core and chronic back pain. The delivery of my third kiddo was a doozy and I struggled with my return to physical activity. Determined to regain some of my strength back, I joined the Orokawa Y and found myself a regular at Monday morning Barre class with an Instructor named Melissa. My postpartum body couldn’t do a lot of the exercises, but I really connected with Melissa and her style of teaching. I never missed a class. A year later she suggested I become an instructor and steered me in the right direction.
A lot of juggling had to be done at home, but I spent the course of a year and a half getting trained to teach yoga, barre and general group fitness. My yoga teacher training was the most intense in terms of physicality. It was also difficult being away from my family so much…but it was most definitely life changing. It has forged friendships and has enabled me to help others bring some calm and peace into their lives. I always return to my family a better person after I have taught a class.
COVID hit so many small businesses hard — especially in the wellness industry. What were some of the unexpected challenges to your own small business? How did you pivot?
Pre-covid, I was teaching up to 15 classes a week in various settings. I taught some corporate yoga classes where I went on-site to work locations; I had my regular classes at the gym; and I had a regular schedule with Holistic Life Foundation, Inc., a non-profit that brings mindfulness and meditation to schools. I was actually in the middle of teaching a yoga class to a gym full of elementary aged students when we all got the news of the shut-downs of schools. The gym followed suit a few weeks later. I went from 15 classes to no classes.
I wanted to keep teaching and like so many instructors, switched to an online platform. The online platform isn’t for everyone and I yearned for the connection you only get by being in person, so I started offering classes in my backyard. I invited moms and dds in the neighborhood. We practiced yoga outside with the birds and the trees and when time allowed, we caught up on life. I also shared my love of yoga with my middle guy’s soccer team. I think I even made some life long yogis out of a few of them.
Let’s talk about silver linings for a minute. Any silver linings this past year? Opportunities in unexpected places?
Like a lot of families, we were juggling a lot pre-covid. We had our lives scheduled out. My husband and I often wished for a free weekend. Covid has made us more mindful of how we fill our days. I wasn’t ready for my youngest to start Kindergarten this school year… for my middle guy to finish Elementary School…and my oldest to finish Middle School this year. As parents, we often wish we could slow down time. I think Covid gave me that power.
In terms of unexpected opportunities, I started teaching virtual yoga through a non-profit called Leaders of Tomorrow Youth Center. It has been amazing to connect with young students during this time. I had time to volunteer more and met some amazing people who head up the Student Support Network. And lastly, with my husband working from home, I wake up to a fresh pot of coffee every morning.
You’ve recently started a diversity and inclusion committee at Stoneleigh Elementary (SES). Can you tell us how that came to be and what your goals are?
The Diversity and Inclusion Committee was the idea of another SES Mom named Andrea W. With her work schedule this year, she was unable to lead so I volunteered. I like to think of myself as someone who helps to organize the meetings, as opposed to being the Chair. This is a group effort and it will only be successful if it remains that way. We have a lot of goals, but ultimately we want to make sure all families feel welcomed not just within the walls of the building, but within the programming and culture.
Many people, especially moms, think of January as a time to reset and re-engage. What would be your advice to someone who wants to start their own yoga practice?
Regardless of what type of format class I am teaching, I like to gently remind my students that there is absolutely judgement or competition. You are not in competition with the person next to you. You aren’t in competition with the person you were last year or yesterday. Come to your mat exactly as you are in that moment. We will all look different in the same pose. The beauty of being together in a Yoga class is to foster connection and community. You don’t have to look a certain way or be super flexible to be able to practice. You don’t need fancy yoga pants either. Practicing yoga can mean a lot of many different things. It’s not just about the physical practice.
Taking 5 minutes for yourself to sit in silence…to breathe…to be present…that is also yoga.
What are three things that you’re looking forward to in 2021?
HUGGING everyone! Teaching in person classes when it’s safe….and, of course, more yoga.
Let’s have (virtual) coffee! Know of a Baltimore area parent doing really (cool) things? Or — hey — are you that parent? We want to have coffee! Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to let us know. Photos provided by Sara Waire.