I remember the specific yoga class I was in 4 years ago, when I first got it. Not a perfectly balanced tree pose or my first headstand because those didn't come until many years later. I was in pigeon, my now favorite yoga pose, and got this intense bolt of connection. Connection to myself. It was the first time that my mind and body caught up and were in the same time zone as each other. Everything that I had been separately thinking and feeling were now here...in the present moment, staring me in the face as if to say "We've been waiting for you."
Previous to this class, I was in autopilot. I routinely went through the motions of my days, ignoring the messages my heart was whispering. It told me that I was not in the place I was meant to be in. It told me that it wasn't in the cards for me to feel unhappy everyday. It told me that there was something greater, bigger than myself that I was meant to discover and share. But like any fear driven, confused and exhausted workaholic, I ignored it.
These messages had been coming in whispers for a long time and like that squeaky sound your brakes keep making in your car that you keep ignoring, you can only play deaf for so long before you are careening down a hill at speeds faster than you are comfortable with, with no way of stopping. It gets louder and louder until there is no ignoring...there is only clarity.
That was the moment that I got honest with myself. I knew then that there was no turning back. As Maya Angelou said in one of my favorite quotes "When you know better, you do better." Once your message moves from a whisper to a scream, the only direction to go is forward.
The details of my turning point are not as important as the turning point itself. My thoughts here are simple ones. When you hear those whispers...those tugs at your heart, that unease in your gut...tune in. Tune in and be honest with what you are feeling. Give it a name. Give it multiple names. Then try to dig deeper to figure out WHY you are feeling this way. Is this surface feeling masking something bigger? Ask yourself WHAT it is trying to tell you? Only then can you get honest and attempt to right your course.
It may feel daunting, but I promise you this; if where you are is not healthy and not where you want to be, you owe it to yourself to start constructing a better future. Everything happens FOR you, not TO you. This is just an unexpected turn. You are strong, you are smart and you are worth all of the grand possibilities life has to offer!
There's no population quite like children.
We were all there once.
We should all be experts.
But it's a speck of our lifetime that we are all granted access to just by being born but then somehow, without our choosing, we all need to exit. We get off of that ride and hop onto another one.
Luckily enough, we get to keep the warm memories that were made in childhood.
I hope that yours included cookies out of the oven and not worrying about calories.
Dirty clothes from an afternoon outside and no worries about how much those pants cost.
Writing notes to your friends and no worry of it making it onto social media.
Of course when we are kids we all can't wait to grow up.
And don't get me wrong, there are magnificent lessons and freedoms in every stage. But there's nothing quite like being a child. There are things about being a child...lessons we can reach back and tightly grab and bring back with us to adulthood. Reminders for when we are not having so much fun paying bills, carpooling, food shopping and cleaning.
These are the a few of the best parts of being a child:
1.) Children get excited about little things.
Give any 2nd grader a new sheet of stickers and you just made their day. 10 extra minutes of recess? You're the nicest person in the world. Extra dessert after dinner? It is the best day of their lives!
2.) Children are sponges for new information:
For some reason as we get older, we lose the bravery to try new things. We worry that we will look silly or we get frustrated that it is taking us too long to master something. But kids just love it all! Science facts and experiments, learning new dances like The Floss (and then proceeding to show it off no matter the venue or audience!) No, you don't need to break out new dance moves in public, but whether you read, chat, watch documentaries or take a workshop, never stop soaking in information!
3.) Children are forgiving:
Yes, they may giggle if you mispronounce a word or make a mistake, but they are not judging you. They really don't care! They'll forget all about it within the next 5 seconds. And even if they don't forget, they still think you know 90% of the world's information!
4.) Children are moldable:
Although they are their own little people with their own opinions and habits, they are open to ours. The caution here of course is to make sure that you are demonstrating good ones. I often talk to my kids about the benefits of meditation and exercise and that we are all made of energy that cannot be destroyed so to put more positive energy out there than negative. They may ask questions and take only the parts that they like, but the neatest thing is being able to talk to your kids about being honest, kind, healthy and magical little people and then watch them try!
5.) Children remind us to slow down:
Children don't care that the floor needs to be vacuumed or that there is unfolded laundry on top of the dryer. We do. And believe me, as someone who physically and mentally feels exuberant when my house is clean, my kids remind me to chill out and enjoy myself and them before getting up the next morning and jumping back on the hamster wheel of Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday. This one is a work in progress for me, but I am trying to catch myself more often and mentally tell myself "Go be with your kids....they're more exciting than dirty dishes."
6.) When it comes down to it, all they REALLY want is your time:
No child will tell you that they don't need, want or get excited at the prospect of getting new toys. But I have learned, especially as my kids get older that the thing that trumps STUFF to them, is me. Just me and my time and attention; eye contact when they are talking, reading a book to them in their beds at night, playing a round or two of Skip Bo, sitting on my son's beanbag chair with him and watching 10 minutes of TV, dancing with my daughter... I often ask myself "Why is this so hard?" when I'm in the midst of one of those special moments. The truth is, it's not hard and it's so much more enjoyable then all of the things I busy myself with 'having' to do. Yes, the lunches need to get made and baths need to be given, but I try to find a balance of work and play on the nights that I can. Then on those crazy nights, I know it's ok because they do get all of me when they can. The effort matters so much to them.
I know it all sounds good in theory. I know too that you believe in all of it; the importance of time with your kids. I know that there are nights where you cannot sit down, you don't have patience, you just want to be alone and have a to-do list longer than the hours left in the day! Don't guilt yourself on those nights. Just try to steal the little moments when you can.
When you evaluate your to-do list and mentally say "I technically could sit for 5 minutes". Do it.
Or when you are texting back your mother, but your daughter is asking you a question. Just look up for 4 seconds and answer her while seeing her. My daughter taught me this when she one day said "Look at me while I'm talking to you!" Whoa! Good point, my little 6 year old.
I sometimes find that the tape in my head is on automatic replay saying "I can't!", "I don't have time!", "This is going to take forever!". (eye roll) So dramatic....
When I notice it, I tell it to shut up. Some nights it's accurate, but most nights it's just habit.
I read an article once about how we only have 19 summers with our kids before we have to share them with the world. I think of this often when my "I don't have time!!!" soundtrack is playing. It puts me in check.
Do your best and let the rest go. Enjoy your kids. Enjoy your own days. Don't save it all for when your house is quiet and clean....and empty. Don't be so hard on yourself. Your kids aren't going to be.
What is your favorite thing about your children?
The cornerstone of any beneficial yoga practice, whether you are a child or an adult, is that it is just that...a practice. Unlike sports, yoga is not competitive. You do not train to get better and more skillful. That happens through repeatedly showing up on your mat and moving in whatever way feels right that day. You never master yoga. You are always in practice.
Of course, you may set personal goals and have particular poses that you want to achieve, but it's only about you. No judgments, no losses, no bad games. Everyday is different. Somedays you may ease into tree pose and feel like you could hang out there all day. Other days, you are a tree dancing in the wind and you can't find balance for the life of you! But it's all okay. Every time you get yourself on the mat is a gift and you will end up getting exactly what it is you need that day, whether you know what that is at the start of class or not.
For these reasons, yoga is such a deep, rich and positive practice for children. It offers them so much personal learning and introducing your children to it, is the greatest, lifelong gift you could give them. Here are a few reasons why:
1.) Yoga promotes body awareness.
Many children do not have a relationship with their bodies in which they know and understand how it feels at its worst and ways to help it feel its best. Yoga allows kids to test out the limits of what their muscles can do using only their own body weight and learn that they can do things that they never thought possible.
2.) Yoga eases stress.
Let's face it. The world can be busy, overstimulating, overwhelming, rushed and confusing...and that's for us adults! Now imagine you are 20-30-40 years younger feeling the same way! Yoga and learning various breathing techniques helps kids learn about their central nervous system and what is happening to their bodies and minds when they are stressed. Because yoga is only about the person practicing, it allows kids to get inside their own minds and bodies and tune in. They learn real and lasting ways to manage their own negative feelings. There is a lot of power in that!
3.) Yoga increases focus.
In yoga, you are constantly reminded to focus on your breath, to be in the present moment and to tune in to your body. Through doing so, kids fine tune their ability to shut out distractions and attend to the here and now.
4.) Yoga teaches self-acceptance.
If you have ever practiced yoga in a studio as an adult, chances are you have been told by the yoga instructor that your pose looks beautiful, that you are amazing, that every pose in the room should look different because it's about what's perfect for you. Practicing yoga and everything that comes along with it puts your child in a positive, supportive, encouraging environment where they are made to feel perfectly imperfect. Who couldn't move mountains feeling that way?!
5.) Yoga is as much about mental health as it is about physical health.
When I first set out to try yoga, it was as a physical way to get some exercise after having my first child. Little did I know that the exercise and muscle lengthening and strengthening that it provides, would become secondary. I believe that it is of #1 importance (for everyone, not just children) to be socially and emotionally healthy. We aren't born knowing how to handle certain situations and feelings that we face as we grow, yet we will experience them anyway. I hold learning about our social and emotional needs as a pinnacle part in every class I teach regardless of the age. Knowledge is truly power and when you are able to understand and confront uncomfortable social and emotional hurdles, nothing seems defeating. Yoga and these teachings gives kids the tools to proactively handle their problems and not feel hopeless.
6.) Yoga increases flexibility, muscle lengthening and strength.
It can be overlooked as a fitness outlet, but if you have ever held yourself up in a Downward Facing Dog or in Warrior II, you can attest to the fact that yoga builds muscle. Yes, there are parts of class and many asanas that focus on stretching you out and are extremely relaxing, but there is a level of challenge in holding a pose for an extended period of time. With continued practice, yoga makes for a strong, steady and flexible body. *Bonus* This can also help prevent injury!
So as you can see, there are numerous benefits to be gifted from a consistent practice of yoga. The weight that each of the benefits listed above carry, is massive and together create a happy, resilient, positive and healthy life!