I have two little boys 7 and 3.
Our house is the anthesis of Zen.
We totally meditate, in time out. We recite mantras like, ‘he hit me’ or simply, ‘no’. Partner yoga is something we practice on the back lawn. It looks remarkably like wrestling or strangling. Compassion flows through the halls in bucketfuls – of teary apologies and recriminations.
The light in me sees the light in you people.
I am pulling back the curtain not only in the spirit of empathy but also to say, doing yoga with your kid a couple times isn’t going to reinvent childhood or your family. I’ve scoured blogs, websites and books. Almost all predict world peace and quiet bedtimes by page two. Three downdogs in and your previously self-involved 6 year old wants to join the peace corp and hug his brother until the end of time. Downward dog won’t trump Minecraft let alone typical (and imperative) childhood egotism and savasana isn’t going to replace nerf guns. It certainly hasn’t over here at this madhouse. But I’m not giving up, and it isn’t out of fear of hypocrisy.
It’s because sometimes my beasts respond …
Many kids (most definitely mine) have trouble coping with the busy environment they find themselves in today. Their brains are being asked to evolve with the speed of technology. Their emotional responses have to address the instantaneous and pervasive world of Facebook and texting. Access to physical education, art and music is limited as class sizes grow and funding shrinks. Bullying is a buzzword and video games are king.
I have trouble processing it all. Their potential stress stresses me out. It’s parental stress irony. I feel like I need some yoga …
For kids that are sensitive to these environmental strains, yoga can provide them with tools to accept and express emotion. There are techniques we use to promote relaxation, self-awareness and therefore improve their response to stress. We can build their physical strength and flexibility which can improve their self-esteem. Yoga can provide COPING STRATEGIES. And check the internet … we parents love strategies.
And if your kid isn’t stressed? Copes beautifully?
I think the one thing we overlook in our worries about screen time and over-scheduling as parents is perhaps the thing that is most lacking and most important – CONNECTION – to one another, to our environment and to ourselves. That connection is the precursor to empathy. And that bucket is never full enough.
I hope your local yoga studio has a program for kids. And I hope that the program isn’t a dumbed down asana practice. I hope it offers a safe place for kids to express themselves, get to know themselves and to CONNECT. Through games, crafts, stories and yes, asana, we can offer kids a non-judgmental opportunity to become aware of the world and their place in it.
We don’t have toddler mats laid out in a home studio in front of a Buddha in our madhouse. There are no chimes and we don’t chant. But we do talk about our feelings before bed. We take deep breaths and count to ten. We take walks.
That’s also yoga.
From our madhouse to yours.
Melissa Enfield is running our kids program as well as teaching yoga and pilates. For more information on Melissa