I have always been a fidgety person. I can’t sit still. Silence makes me uncomfortable. I have a difficult time quieting the endless thoughts that swirl and twirl around in my head, crashing into one another.
My happiest day at the office was when I traded in my regular desk for a standing desk because now it’s so much easier to shift and tap and wiggle and wriggle around. I’m like a 2 year old. Seriously.
Apparently, all this nervous energy isn’t great for your muscles either, because my muscles are constantly tight and sore and achy.
So please believe me when I say the thought of yoga and meditation was downright terrifying.
I didn’t think I’d be able to make it through my first class. Nervous energy, tight inflexible muscles, and anxious thoughts – exactly what we picture when we think of people doing yoga, right? Nope.
But my husband and I had promised each other that this would be the year that our family would explore things that challenged (and terrified) us because we’ve found that all the magic happens right outside our comfort zones. True to his word, he had quit a secure job to start working full time on his own business. And I’ve never seen him happier.
My 4 year old followed suit. She took a deep breath and then a leaping dive into a swimming pool and fell in love with the water.
Starting a yoga and meditation practice was something that was deeply outside of my comfort zone. But I’m so happy that I convinced myself to try because this new practice has had a profound effect on the rest of my life, and especially on my parenting abilities.
I was tempted to just buy a yoga DVD from Amazon and call it a day. It’s no surprise to anyone that I generally avoid spending money (unless it’s somehow related to travel) and a yoga DVD would certainly have been cheaper than finding a class. But as I had never really done any yoga, I told myself I’d just sign up for an intro month at a school, learn everything there is to know about it, and then just practice on my own, at home. (Tells you how little I actually knew about this ancient practice! I’ve since learned that you never learn “everything there is to know” about yoga and certainly not in a month. There is endless opportunity for continuing an education in yoga.)
I began my search for the perfect yoga studio. I was looking for something that honored the Indian origins of yoga, and for something that was geared more towards reflection and meditation vs. something that was simply a workout. I wasn’t looking for a “power yoga” style of studio. Once I found a studio that seemed like everything I was looking for, I started to panic. I had preconceived notions about what a yogi looks like – tall, thin, blond, and vegan.
You know, all the things I’m not. But here’s the thing about preconceived notions – they are of your own making. The panic I felt about not fitting in was all in my own head. It was my problem, and my problem alone to work through. So I signed up for an introductory month, took a deep breath, and just walked in. Which led to my first lesson:
You don’t have to be perfect. You just have to show up.
What I found is that everyone, regardless of body type or diet, benefits from practicing yoga.
Showing up to the studio is often the hardest part for me as there is always an excuse as to why I should be doing something else. Parents especially feel guilt whenever they take some time away from their kids. But I will be honest – not once have I ever regretted the decision to make attending my class a priority. I’ve never completed a session and then thought “dang, I should have just stayed home and folded the laundry.” Not once.
Yoga teaches you that every day is different. Some days your body will feel perfectly aligned, and holding a balancing pose is easy. Other days, you just try your best.
I think this was a great “mom” lesson to learn for me. As someone who loves to spend time in the kitchen, and browsing through Pinterest, I sometimes feel like my identity is associated with the food I prepare and bring to events. And when life gets in the way of baking that gorgeously decorated cupcake for a preschool birthday party, I feel like such a failure. But repeat after me: “You don’t have to be perfect. You just have to show up.” Instead of opting out of celebrating my daughter’s birthday in school with gorgeously decorated, perfectly organic cupcakes, I went to a grocery store and bought some. My daughter and the rest of her class were thrilled with the treat. It wasn’t about being perfect. It was about showing up (with cupcakes).
Practicing in a community is better – (Forget about the mom tribe)
As I got to know the other students at the studio, it was fun to hear their stories and unique perspectives. I heard from students who were well educated in aromatherapy and gemstone therapy. I learned from those who practiced Ayurvedic medicine, as well as from school teachers who shared the positive impact of meditation on kids with attention deficit disorder. I heard from those who shared the science behind the practice – specifically how the brain physically changes when in deep meditation.
I started looking forward to the 10 minutes before class as much as the class itself. We’ve all heard the cliche “Find your mom tribe” countless times, but what I learned is it’s even more important to find a community of parents. We all come from different cultures, traditions, and parenting philosophies. By limiting our tribe to those who are most like us, we limit not only WHO we know, but WHAT we know. That new piece of information, that life-changing parenting tip usually comes from outside your inner circle.
I don’t know about you, but I find that I yell a lot more now that I’m a parent. It’s not something that I’m exactly proud of, but I also couldn’t really help myself. The practice of learning to breathe through difficult poses or while stretching tight muscles has had a profound affect on how much I yell. It’s also helped me in disciplining my child.
Now, when I see nail polish spilled on the carpet or all my neatly folded laundry dumped out of a basket (because you can’t pretend a laundry basket is a spaceship if it’s filled with clothes) instead of straight up yelling, I invite the little one to sit with me, criss-cross applesauce, in silence, eyes shut, for a few minutes. We both breathe. In and out. In and out. In and out. After a few minutes, we open our eyes and have an actual conversation. As we both reflect on the situation, it’s easier to get our individual feelings out in a helpful way.
If you are interested in learning more but not yet able to invest in joining a yoga studio, here are some small ways to begin incorporating yoga and meditation into your life.
- Bedtime Yoga. If you do a quick search, you will be able to find children’s books that take you through simple poses within the context of a bedtime story that helps prepare little ones mentally and physically for bed.
- There are apps you can download that guide you through meditation practices.
- While I think it’s best (and the most fun) to join an actual yoga studio, you can find free yoga videos online.