There are many moments in parenting when I wonder if I’m doing it right. I question how my choices will turn out in the long term, and whether each decision I’ve made will have minor or major implications on the lives of our kids. And then there are times when I can take a pause, breathe into the moment at hand, and feel content that things are going okay.
Last week I had one of those moments with my daughter. Even though I’m a yoga teacher, I’ve always been careful not to pressure my kids to do yoga. I know full well the value of yoga for kids, but it’s an entirely different situation when you’re their parent. It’s easy for me to talk to other children about breathing, body awareness, and meditation; to explore how yoga, and how meditation can help us manage our emotions, gain perspective on situations, stay focused, and be conscious of our physical and mental selves. But teaching these things to my own kids? I’m sure that on top of all of the other lessons I try to impart as a parent, all they would hear is: “Blah, blah, blah, blah.”
So instead of coaxing them to do yoga with me, I simply practice it myself. Often it’s when they’re not home (because let’s get real here: I really enjoy doing yoga without the mantra of “Mummy, mummy? Mummy! Mummy?” in the background.) But I also roll out my mat when they’re home, whenever my body (and mind) crave a yoga practice.
There have been many times when my kids have joined me for part or all of a session, and I love it. My six year-old son has even led me through a practice that he made up. (He took yoga at his nursery school for two years and really enjoyed it.) But until now they haven’t been consistent in stepping on to the mat with me.
This summer has been different. After breaking her arm (which required surgery and pins,) my eight year-old daughter could no longer do all the physical activities she is used to doing. She had to take a three-month break from competitive gymnastics and that has been really difficult for her. Her recovery has needed to be steady and measured so that she doesn’t re-injure herself, and she’s required to strengthen her arm and recover mobility without overdoing it. That’s a very fine line to walk when you’re eight years old.
When she first got the green light to begin strengthening her arm again, we went through a yoga practice that would help her and that she could build upon as she became stronger. She began gingerly at first and slowly gained confidence in the poses she could do. And we practiced together.
Last week on holiday at a family cottage, Lizzie asked if we could start the morning with yoga on the dock. She knows it’s my favourite place to practice. We set up our mats and began going through the poses. Halfway through, as we stood in tree pose, with the sun dazzling on the lake in front of us, she grabbed my hand, looked at me and smiled. “I really like yoga, mummy,” she said. “I think it’ll be our thing.”
And in that moment we shared something more special than any lessons I could have tried to teach her through yoga.