Many of us in the Yoga community believe in the idea of reincarnation. If you subscribe to this thought, then perhaps you have had the awareness that your child is wise far beyond their years. Sometimes it feels like we are living with ancient, wise Buddhas, who just happen to be running around in Seventh Generation diapers. These beautiful beings have much to teach us, especially with respect to the practice of Yoga.
Many Yoga teacher training programs take the time to teach alignment, pranayama, sometimes even meditation and if we’re lucky, basic Yogic philosophy. As parents, we are in a unique position to learn some of the most profound teachings in the sanctity of our own family. Two lessons that we can learn from our children are Beginner’s Mind and Staying in the Moment.
Witnessing a child’s delight when experiencing nature for the first time can be a powerful reminder to see the world through fresh eyes. Watching a toddler arrive at the beach can be a magical moment. The whole beach is like a giant sandbox waiting to be explored. The best part is that the enchanted reaction happens anew almost every time that they arrive. This awareness, this sense of delight, with no judgment and no projection, can be a powerful reminder to approach the Yoga mat as a fresh, magical place of discovery every time that we practice.
If you have ever practiced next to someone who was mumbling expletives under their breath when falling out of a balance pose, or turning bright purple from holding their breath in an inversion, then you have seen what Yoga looks like when the innocence of child-like play has been lost. Many teachers cue to maintain a childlike approach to the practice, but what does that mean and how can you both learn that approach and learn to teach it (if you are a teacher, not just of Yoga, but all studies)?
If we take the time to observe our children, we can learn the technique.
This four-part technique involves:
1) Slowing down.
2) Letting the inner smile rise.
3) Looking at the mat as a place for exploration and play and…
4) Getting over ourselves. (The practice is not a performance nor a place for comparison to others).
Next time you are practicing a particularly challenging sequence, try these steps and see if you can discover something new, joyous and magical in the intimacy of the marriage of breath and movement.
Staying in the Moment
This is perhaps the single most challenging practice to learn and to teach. It seems to be innate in adults, that there is an almost constant review of the past, “I should have said this, or I wish I would have done that,” and/or an incredible amount of list making for the future. Staying completely centered in the present, in this moment, in this breath, is sort of like taming a wild cat; it can get a little ugly.
Again, we can look to children for our lesson on staying present. If you have ever spent any time with a two-year-old, you know that toddlers are always in the moment. They want to do whatever it is that they want to do, and they want to do it NOW!!! When these amazing little people are on swings or slides, or just singing a song, there is no thought of, “Oh I wish I would not have cc’ed that person on that email,” or “Maybe I should change my Facebook status.” There is only pure, rapt attention on the task at hand. The best part about learning this technique is that you can do so through spending time with your child, playing and having fun.
The next time you have an hour free, try putting away all electronics and commit to following your child’s activity. Allow yourself to be fully present and truly engaged in whatever they are doing. Not only will you experience the freedom of living in the moment, but you will give your child the gift of a parent who is present on all levels; physically, mentally and emotionally. Imagine if all of our parents had been able to connect with us in this way, even for an hour a day. In the words of the Van Halen song, “Right Now… It means everything.”
Our children are truly our gurus. They are beloved souls that have come into our lives to teach us innumerable lessons. Call it destiny, karma, or the divine will, out of all of the millions of possibilities in this world, you and your child came together. So, slow down, and take notes on their approach to life. Even better, don’t take notes, because that might take you out of the moment. Try to see the world through their eyes. Everything is new, everything is amazing, and everything that matters is happening right now!
Desi Bartlett MS, CPT, has been teaching health and wellness for more than 20 years. Originally from Chicago, she has a degree in kinesiology and her master’s degree in corporate fitness. Desi holds advanced certifications in Yoga, personal training, group fitness, and is a certified pre- and post-natal fitness specialist.