When I was 27-years-old, I was able to live the dream – the yoga dream, that is. My days were restful, fluid, and, quite literally, planned around my yoga practice.
I think life must have been preparing me for the unrelenting blitz of parenthood.
They say that when you fall off a horse you must get back on again, and this past week I was ready to end my 2+ year hiatus from yoga.
I dusted off my mat, secured a 30-minute YouTube clip, and dimmed the lights. My return to yoga was exactly as I had envisioned it. Well, except for a toddler who kept repeating, “We’re gonna do yo-yo!” Sure, kid.
Not only was my son ready to emulate my every move, but my daughter was also following me with her eyes from an elevated position on our couch.
Yoga Lesson #1: Don’t take yourself too seriously.
One essential component to the art of yoga is learning to control your breath. I sat with my legs crossed and began opening myself to the practice.
My children’s release must have been seismic. Not three seconds after I closed my eyes, I heard my daughter’s intestines explode on the couch. I opened my eyes. My son was staring at me and, with the most honest visage, says “I tooted!”
Little people, especially those that are your own, have a special way of grounding you in reality. And though you may find yourself at times caught up in traps of self-importance, if you are a mother, your days will revolve around the handling of excrement. Embrace the privilege to care for young life.
Yoga Lesson #2: Children will change your plans.
I continued my “ambitious” yoga pursuit in a table top pose. Deep breath in. Deep breath out.
What in the world?!
Before I knew it, my son was on top of my back. And just like that, I was mounted during table top. What’s a mom to do? I sang “Yankee Doodle Dandy” and mentally shortened my practice from thirty minutes to five.
The life you plan for yourself will always be interrupted when you have a child. But I have come to find that five minutes of chaos with your kids can be better than thirty minutes of perfection without them.
Yoga Lesson #3: Curiosity and learning should never end.
Next pose: downward dog.
My son was intrigued and struggled for 30 seconds to get into position. I took a moment to straighten myself and took a deep breath.
My heart nearly jumped out of my chest. A little boy with expectant blue eyes was suddenly staring up at me from below, repeating the following phrase: “What you doin’, Mommy? What you doin’?”
This, I am learning, is the way of toddlerhood. Children desperately want to know your world and be a part of it. They will do things that, at face value, annoy and perplex us. This is how we help our children learn to live: we let them play active roles in what matters to us, and we let them ask us endless questions. In this, we learn.
Yoga Lesson #4: Life is about trying and falling over and over again.
For our grand finale, my son and I attempted a simple tree pose. Simple, of course, if you do yoga more than once every two years. I fell. He fell. My daughter laughed at our improvised one-legged dance across the living room.
I think one of the best things we can do as a parent is to show our children that we don’t have all the answers and that we will fail many times. Sometimes this will lead to laughter (son loses balance and hops for five seconds like a bunny); sometimes this will lead to tears (Mom loses balance and lands on abandoned Lego). More than anything, however, this will lead to a better us. Only when we open ourselves to the risk of falling will we receive the humility a life of value requires. Oh, what gratitude we owe our little ones.
In the end, I reconnected with a part of myself that I feared was lost long ago. Perhaps this spirit of my youth will allow me to transcend the trappings of parenthood. After all, aren’t we all just children learning to breathe in an adult world?