I had been practicing yoga with my son, Scotty (age three), for about four months when my husband and I took him to the barber to receive his first professional haircut.
(Those botch jobs I had been doing on him with a pair of dull shears were no longer passing muster; but that’s a different story for a another day.)
The point here is that the mere notion of having to sit still while getting his curls chopped by a stranger scared the bejesus out of him – so you can only imagine how bad things got when Scotty heard the buzz and felt the vibration of the electric clippers.
It was bad; really bad: tears, incoherent pleading for it to stop. The whole nine.
And then I told Scotty to close his eyes…and breathe.
I told him – quite pointedly – to breathe just like we do when we practice yoga; to simply focus on his breath as he counts to ten and then back down to one again.
It took a minute. But, no lie, I could literally feel the muscles in his arms relax and release as I held his clammy hands in mine.
When Scotty was done and climbed down from the chair, I told him how proud I was of him for doing yoga just now.
He looked at me, puzzled and confused. “I got a haircut,” he said.
“You got a haircut while you were doing yoga,” I corrected. “Remember how Mommy told you that you can do yoga anywhere, and that it can give you strength when things get tough? It’s true.”
I don’t believe Scotty understood the full magnitude of my words.
But he will, someday.
Contrary to what we may have learned or come to believe, yoga isn’t just about twisting like a pretzel, or looking good in our workout pants – or our bathing suit, for that matter.
The purpose of yoga is to quiet our mind, to realize that all beings are connected, and, ultimately, to find peace and awareness within ourselves.
What greater gift could we bestow upon our children?
But, wait. There’s more.
Children and parents stand to gain a ton from practicing yoga together. It’s an excellent way to bond, for one; and, secondly, children are impressionable, so the act of us doing yoga with them reiterates the belief that physical exercise is important and that we also value the mind-body connection.
The parent doesn’t even have to be an experienced (or flexible) practitioner of yoga!
None of that even matters.
The mere fact that you are accepting of your body – regardless of what it can or cannot do that day – and you choose to get on the mat and practice yoga anyway is golden.
What if some children copy what they see, and others won’t?
What if your baby cries or needs to be changed or fed during class?
It’s no biggie. The class is designed to accommodate these types of situations.
What if your kid finds the mat itself to be the main draw, or, worse, your attempt to keep your child on the mat makes you feel as if you’re herding cats?
Keep coming to class anyway.
This is all new to them, and for many kids, yoga is unlike anything they’ve ever experienced.
There’s no rush to “master” yoga, and this isn’t a competition.
We all have a lifetime to learn and experience all the wonderful benefits yoga has to offer.
Some of those benefits can include better sleep; a more “settled” behavior with less extreme ups and downs; stimulation of bodily systems, including digestive and nervous systems; laying a foundation for future positive social relations between parent and child over the early years and beyond; and relaxation.
And, oh, yeah, you may just find yourself in need of a smaller pair of pants if you keep coming to class: Make no mistake about it, you will feel the burn.
But in a good way.
Plus “Mommy and Me” yoga classes are a great way to meet other moms with kids around the same age in your community, which can often translate into play dates outside of workouts.
But, to me, the greatest boon to establishing a yoga practice with your child is instilling in them the belief that there is tremendous value and unlimited benefits to harnessing the power of your own breath.
And while yoga certainly is the conduit, the truth is, the power was deep inside us all along.
Yoga only helps us connect to it.
I look forward to taking this fun, exciting journey with you and your children, and hope you’ll consider attending our “Mommy & Me” yoga sessions. (Details to come!)