Parenting has been called “the highest yoga”, and for good reason. Where else do you have the challenge and opportunity to be your most mindful at each moment? Where your every communication has the potential to create conflict or upliftment? Children respond either consciously or unconsciously to the vibratory energy of each moment. Much of the time, we adults have lost our sensitivity to the energy that vibrates between us all. Children can make us painfully aware of our gaps in awareness.
On the other hand, I have found greater motivation to stay on target since having a child. I use yoga, meditation, prayer, whatever it takes! Nothing beats a consistent daily spiritual practice to “tune up” to higher consciousness. In other words, if you touch and verify your own soul regularly, you wont stray too far in your interactions with your child. Whether youre having trouble with your child, or your life, it wont be so serious, and you wont take it so seriously. When difficulty comes, your attitude is less “This is a big problem.” and more “Wheres the lesson here?”
Many of us use yoga and meditation to improve the quality of our lives, and the lives of our children. Still, Ive not met any parent, including myself, who would say that life with children is perfect. Nor do I believe it will ever be. There will always be new challenges to keep us on our toes! But we can learn to meet each challenge with grace and success. And yoga, our dear friend, will come to the rescue when we are in a tight spot.
From Drama to Dharma
Every parent can recall a time of emotional crisis in progress. Imagine for a moment that your child is bugging you, whining, perhaps screaming-pressing on you for something he or she wants. You can excuse yourself, go to the bathroom, have a seat on the only one available, and close your eyes. Listen to your long and deep breath coming in and out, instead of the chatter, nagging or screaming from the other room. Dont feel pressured to do anything about the situation, or to say anything at all. Go into an inner space where drama doesnt exist. Only you and your breath exist in this space.
Now open your mouth into an “O” shape and inhale deeply through your mouth. The lips are slightly pursed, as though you are drinking from a very large straw. Close your mouth and exhale slowly through your nose. Look in the mirror to get it right, then close your eyes and concentrate on your breath. Do this for two minutes and see how you feel. This exercise slows down your mind and emotions, allows you to return to your full self. It at once calms and strengthens the nervous system.
Take another few moments to assess the situation you will be returning to when you open the door. Have confidence from deep within that you know what to do and how to do it. Your communication will come from your essential self. Your child will feel it, and relax. The two of you will come to a common meeting ground. If your child chooses to resist, you can still remain neutral, open, and centered in your decision. Allow your child to go through whatever changes she needs to. Give her that right. Give both of you Bach Rescue Remedy in water, or just a drop straight into the mouth. It will calm her and let her know you are on her side. You are the kind and merciful master of yourself, and the helper of her soul. The trauma will lose its power and fall flat, leaving you both in a clearer place of understanding.
Passing it On
One wonderful way to create more harmony and happiness in the home is to teach your children to meditate. The “O Breath” exercise given above is perfect for children too. Initially try it at a time when there is a real camaraderie between you. It is hard for a child to follow your direction when he is in conflict with you. Patience pays- wait for a good opportunity to give him these tools of change.
It becomes easier to use yogic techniques to bring balance when there is imbalance when you have a daily yoga practice. Your child sees that you rebalance yourself each day. His unconscious mind tells him, “This is what we do each day to set ourselves for the day.” Rebalancing through yoga in troubled times will seem most natural for him.
The Calm Heart
Chanting and singing are wonderful tools to bring peace to the heart. A very simple and effective meditation uses the sounds, “Sat Nam” (pronounced like “but mom”). It literally means “Truth-Identity, or Truth is my identity” in Sanskrit. To practice this meditation, bring the hands into prayer pose, with palms and straight fingers pressed together. Then bring the hands to the heart centre and press the thumbs into the sternum. You will find an indentation in the upper centre of the chest. Press there with about two and a half kilograms of pressure. This will connect the meridians of the head and heart. Then inhale deeply with the eyes closed. “Saaaaaat”, then a very short “Nam” at the end when you have only a little breath left. You will begin to notice that Sat has “waves” of sound to it. Make Sat have six waves, and Nam one.
Taking it one step further, on each wave of sound, thread the sound through each consecutive chakra (energy centres). Begin at the base of the spine (rectum), move to the sex organs on the second wave, then circulate the sound at the navel on the third, the fourth resounds at the heart. Move upward to the throat on the fifth wave, the sixth resonates between the eyebrows (third eye), then with “Nam” move the sound through the top of the head through the crown chakra. Keep going for five, ten minutes or more. Feel yourself as the instrument of the Divine.
Children love the sound of chanting. Maybe its because they are attuned to sound vibration. When I taught school I used song to catch the attention of a noisy classroom. It worked every time. The seven-wave Sat Nam meditation is a very simple and fun way to introduce children to chanting, and it helps them develop the ability to direct their focus and awareness – an invaluable tool for life.
Share the wealth of breath and sound awareness with your child. Not all at once, but at just the right time. Light a candle before bed and create a beautiful sound together. Sit outside in the fresh air and show him how to breathe long and deep. See who can breathe slower.
When our son was seven, my husband taught him a yoga exercise that incorporates blowing out strongly through the mouth and encouraged his enthusiastic participation in a clever way. The breathing pattern is a long inhale through the nose. The exhale is powerfully blown out through the mouth. My husband put a plant between himself and our son. He challenged him to make the leaves of the plant move. Our son worked on moving that plant, and the exercise worked on moving him – into an internal place of fearlessness, for that is the gift of this exercise.
If you would like to try this exercise, the mudra, or hand position, is as follows: first the right elbow is bent at a 90 degree angle. The arm is out to the side, with the palm facing forward, as though taking an oath. The left hand position is the same with the exception that the elbow is tucked into the side, so the hand is close to the left shoulder. After three minutes, the position is reversed. Then after three minutes both hands are over the heart centre with the left underneath and right on top. Press hard for two minutes. Continue blowing on the out breath. Blow hard!
Fun is Good for Your Soul
In parenting children, sometimes the answer to challenging situations is breath work, and sometimes strong physical activity can simply melt problems away. It is as if the sun of strong movement turns the icy blocks of tension to water. And water? It flows!
Practicing Bear Walk, you will ground yourself with the earth element, and ‘walk off’ tension. When you dont feel like yourself, do this exercise. Get into Triangle Pose, also know as Downward Dog Pose, and begin walking all around the room, or better yet, outdoors. You will find yourself walking in a natural pattern of right arm forward, followed by the left leg, then the left arm, followed by the right leg. Keep the legs and arms straight, but not locked. The bottom is up in the air. Go for three to five minutes. Get primal, get earthy. Let yourself growl if you want! This is a perfect exercise to share with your child. He never needs to know how fantastic it is for him. That can be your little secret! Just let it be fun.
In our family, one person (usually my son) initiates some fun physical activity, such as blasting the Beatles while we all dance and sing at the top of our lungs. We have pillow fights, jump on the trampoline, have running races, and tickle until it turns into a wrestling match. I find I have to consciously drop all my excuses for not joining in (“I dont really feel like it.” “I dont have time for this.” etc.), and just realise that spontaneous fun is good for my soul. And whats good for my soul is my yoga.
Bless Yourself, Bless Your Child If our goal in raising children is to create whole, happy, and healthy children who know how to love, share their radiance, and keep their centre no matter what life brings, then we will want to act in our highest consciousness at each moment. They learn what they live. And that means they learn what you, as their parents, live.
Give yourself that yogic edge. The science of yoga is only a tool; you must pick it up to use it. So pick it up. Make it your routine. It will deliver you to your soul. It will bless you, and it will bless the soul that comes in the form of your child.