Vibrant Parent, Vibrant Child: Parenting With the Tools of Yoga: Or, Everything I Needed to Know About Parenting I Learned in Yoga Class
Jul 28, 2012 09:55AM
By Kathryn Livingston
Yoga is one of the best ways to learn about being a parent — if you can get away from the kids long enough to take a class! I didn’t begin practicing yoga until my three sons were nearly grown, but even with older kids the parenting benefits have been enormous. To raise vibrant, healthy kids it helps to be vibrant and healthy yourself. Here are a few things I’ve learned from yoga that transfer quite naturally to the parenting realm:
- Good health. Yoga helps to keep our immune system strong, builds core strength, and gives us the physical balance needed to perform many parenting tasks. Have you ever tried pushing a stroller up a steep hill on a hot day with a crying infant in it? If you’re a parent, of course you have! But have you done it while also holding a three-year-old’s hand and prodding a six-year-old? Let’s just say that keeping in shape is a real help when it comes to parenting. If you have the strength to do your Downward Dog, you’llhave the strength to lift your toddler onto your shoulders to see a parade over a crowd.
- Trust. Yoga instills a sense of trust in the Universe. Before yoga entered my life, I was prone to what one of my yoga teachers calls “awfulizing.” When we become parents, it’s easy to worry constantly (my mother certainly did). In fact, this is what has been modeled for many of us, and so we continue with our own children, worrying about everything from a scraped knee to whether our child will get into an Ivy League college. Yoga helps us put that “monkey mind” to rest, and we begin to realize that children have lessons to learn from challenging experiences, as do we all. Yoga gives parents the strength to trust that all is well even when it seems as if it’s not.
- Separation anxiety. Yes, it’s difficult to part with our children when they go off to summer camp, nursery school or college. But I’m talking about “helicopter” parents, who hover, intervene and fret, and who feel as if their heart will break every time their child walks out the door (and I should know, I was one of them). Yoga gives us the tools to accept what we cannot change, including the fact that kids grow up.
- Mental balance. Yoga gives us the tools of meditation and pranayama (breathing exercises). These are particularly vital parts ofKundalini yoga, which I practice. When we’re stressed out, feeling impatient, or we’re just downright angry with our kids, we can take a time out. Go to your room for ten minutes and meditate. Or stay where you are, but breathe slowly and consciously. Sometimes, when I see a frazzled mom in a supermarket yelling at her toddler, I want to take her by the hand and teach her about the calming power of her very own breath.
- Going within and finding time for self-nurturing. In the rush of raising children—driving them to after-school activities, helping with homework, arranging for play dates, being involved in the PTO or PTA — it’s easy to forget to go within, to go inside yourself, to give yourself some moments every day to reflect on why we’re here. As Yogananda (one of my favorite yogis) said, we are here to “love, serve, remember.” We’re not here to push our three-year-old into a fancy preschool, to make our kid sign up for the swim team even though he loves horseback riding, or to be the coolest mom on the block. Yoga reminds us of why we’re here: To love, serve, remember.
- Ahimsa; to practice non-harming. Yoga helps us to think about our words and our actions. When it comes to raising vibrant children, our words are as important as the way we behave. I shudder to think of some of the hurtful things I have heard parents say (myself included!). When we apply ahimsa to parenting, we realize that there is never any reason to be hurtful to a child (or anyone else, for that matter).
- Being in the now. There is no better, no greater, no more important moment than the moment you have now with your child. Before I began practicing yoga, I was prone to delving into the past (He was so cute when he was a baby!) or ruminating about the future (What if he doesn’t make the softball team?). A lot of time can be lost, and many experiences wasted, if we’re not really in them when they’re happening. Did you ever find yourself finishing a bowl of cereal in the morning and realizing you didn’t even taste a bite of it? The reason is because you weren’t consciously eating — your thoughts were elsewhere. Parenting is like that too; it flies by in a flash, and if we’re always in the past or future we’ll miss its authentic taste and texture. Yoga helps us to be here, now: this is your moment, with your vibrant child.
Kathryn Livingston is a parenting writer and Kundalini yoga practitioner who facilitates the “All About Motherhood” discussion & support group at AquarianYoga Center in Montclair. For more information, call Kathryn at 201-487-0409, email her at [email protected] or visit AquarianYogaCenter.com.