Something cool happened recently: I did ten minutes of yoga with my toddler in the room. He was playing with insect stickers. He was absorbed in them, less than two feet away from me. Despite the fact that these stickers were more detailed and fragile than our usual sheets (in other words, the wings could easily tear off), he could peel them away from the page without my help.
The point is that he didn't crawl under me when I was trying to do 'down-dog.'
We didn't accidentally head-butt like we did one time about a year ago – I had been on the way down into a pose right as he was standing up. His forehead was fine but the popping sound in my face made me think I'd broken my nose. Turns out I merely deviated my septum.
When I was doing cat and dog this time, he didn't gleefully climb on my back for a horsie ride as he often does.
He didn't tug on my pants or my hands while I was trying to do any balancing poses.
I'm not a yogi, or a yoga expert; I don’t even know the real names of the most common poses, but I crave my ten minutes of stretching, if not every day, then most days. My little ten-minute routine is a combination of poses I learned about 15 years ago, when I took yoga classes for about a year. Though it is short and sweet, this practice makes me feel limber, strong, and centered.
Our son has seen me do yoga a lot. When he was an infant, I'd prop him on his stomach for his “tummy time,” then set up the mat right in front of him, as if I was putting on The Yoga Show. I'd talk through what I was doing, as if I was giving a class. I'd count the breaths aloud. When I was in any pose folding forward, I'd tap out a little beat on the floor with my hands to keep him amused. He thought the push-ups were hilarious.
Ever since our head-butt, though, I've been skittish about doing yoga with him around. Still, I'd try sometimes: “Want to go get the yoga mats?” I'd ask him. And he'd come back from the bedroom full of purpose then roll out one mat for me and one for him. Sometimes he'd try to replicate what I was doing (which thrilled me) but eventually, he'd end up on my mat, directly underfoot, saying, “try this!” to me or “look at this!” showing me his own poses. While I enjoyed this very much, it wasn’t getting me my coveted ten minutes.
Lately, I'd let yoga go all together, mostly just because of work and juggling all kinds of various responsibilities. Of course, I could have done it during naps or after he'd gone to bed but I had other things to get done and I just wasn’t making it a priority.
But the morning I gave him those insect stickers, I came to a point when I really needed it – I felt stiff, tense, and anxious that I wasn’t doing enough for my own health. I knew this was a recipe for me to get either sick or injured.
So I pulled out the mat myself; he didn't notice.
I got through five minutes, connecting everything with sun salutations; he kept carefully pulling the bugs off the sheet then sticking them on another, applying his new level of dexterity.
I got through a few more minutes, watching him purse his lips with concentration at the end of my mat.
I actually got through the whole thing and added in a few bonus crunches at the end.
When I was done, I inhaled and exhaled deeply. And I watched him some more. We were in the same room. We were together. I realized that he doesn't need me to help him with everything or need my complete attention every second anymore. Part of this saddened me, but mostly I felt proud of him, and felt a little space opening up for me, a bit of breathing room.
“I love you,” I said to him.
“I love you, too, Mommy,” he responded, his eyes and fingers still focused on peeling off those tiny insect stickers while keeping the wings intact.