Let me start by saying, I’ve tried yoga. A few years ago, I gave it an honest go. Honestly.
I just wanted it so badly. I wanted a posh little mat to carry around with me. I wanted a (more?) legitimate reason to wear yoga pants all day. And let’s be honest, I wanted an hour to myself. An hour where nobody was crying or whining. Alone with just my thoughts? Heaven.
But I couldn’t do it. It’s harder than it looks! It ended up being an hour of me thinking of all the things I should be doing. What if someone needs me? Am I being selfish? And I can’t touch my toes. Like, not even close.
I stuck with it though. I went as often as I could for five months. And I felt good about it. Until life got in the way. You know how it goes. One week of not going became two became I tried yoga 3 years ago. But my point is, I did it.
So when I set out to read Misadventures of a Parenting Yogi by Brian Leaf, I thought I was going into it as a seasoned pro. Yoga? Psh. I know yoga.
It turns out, I don’t know yoga. Not like Brian Leaf. For the father and author, yoga is a way of life. It’s not something you slip in between kindergarten drop off and the laundry. Yoga is the way he connects with himself. With his body. With his soul. With his mind. He says, “Yoga and meditation allow me to tune into my feelings and my heart and to parent from that place.”
Parenting from “that place” has made Brain a more conscious parent. And listen to how he describes conscious parenting: “It simply means being aware of whatever is happening—the challenges, the joys, the anxieties, as well as our reactions to all of this. When we are aware of something we are separate from it. So, instead of acting from frustration, elation, or fear, we act from our deeper selves. We see more clearly and are more free to behave as we choose.”
How peaceful does that sound? Unfortunately (and I know I’m not alone here), I feel like I conduct about 50% of my parenting from a place of frustration. Eliminating that? I imagine a home without yelling or crying (i.e. paradise).
Brian’s book is full of really interesting ideas and observations as to how and why yoga can make for a peaceful existence. This excerpt from the book sums up his philosophy nicely:
Noah is taking a kids’ yoga class with lots of other two-year-olds. It’s supercute. They pretend to be animals and crawl around the room and hold postures and have imaginary adventures.
But, little kids, I’m convinced, don’t really need yoga.
Older kids and teens, by the way, are a whole different story. They need yoga. Reimagine your teenage years with yoga. Seriously. Picture yourself at age sixteen. What are you wearing? How are you standing?
Now insert yoga. You’re more grounded in your body. You have self-assurance. You stand tall. You’re able to identify what really matters in life. Everything from the boundaries in your relationships to your skin is clearer.
But little kids, I think, don’t need yoga. You can do cobra or tree or revolved triangle with them, and it will be fun. They are so cute bending and twisting. I love doing sun salutations with Noah. But, really, we’re the ones who need the yoga. Our kids need to eat less sugar and to frolic in the woods more.
I need yoga to control my fear that Noah will be eaten by a bear or that the sweaty guy on the elevator is going to grab him and run. Or to deal with the panic when he disappears for three seconds behind the microbrewed soap display at Whole Foods.
I do yoga to stretch and to manage stress—neither of which kids need to do—and on a deeper, more spiritual level, I do yoga to open my energetic channels and allow for growth and transformation. And to live my truth, my dharma. But kids are already doing this. I do yoga to become more like them.
I remember teaching a toddler yoga class and being frustrated that the kids wouldn’t do what I wanted. They were giggling and playing. I wanted them to be obsessive, perfectionistic, and neurotic like me.
I can, however, let my yoga make me more relaxed and present, like them. I can let it open my mind so that I see my kids as they are, not as I imagine they should be. I can let it open my heart so that I love my kids as they are, not as I imagine they should be.
We need the yoga. Let them frolic.
By chapter 2 I’d dug my old mat out of the attic. By chapter 5 I was laying on my mat reading the book (that counts right?). By the time I’d finished I’d called my neighbor and she and I had signed up for a yoga class. And we went. Four times! I’m still waiting for the enlightened attitude I read about to kick in..but hey. Maybe class #5 will do the trick.
I think that Brian is really onto something here. His book, filled with hilarious anecdotes and really, really wise words, is a fantastic read. It made me stop and think about the impact that the way I treat myself has on my family. The more sane and centered I feel, the more sanely and centered I can act with them. It’s the butterfly effect people.
I highly recommend that you check out this book. And do yourself a favor—get your yoga mat out of the attic before you do.
Click here to purchase Brian's book!