Thursday, December 1, 2011

Little Yogis and Yoginis

Happy December, Internets!  November was fast, furious, and absolutely wonderful.  I'm so happy to be back in New York after a whirlwind week of traveling home to see my fabulous family.  The food was rich and decadent, the weather in Florida was wonderful, and the family got a last minute treat - my cousin Missy brought two of her three beautiful children to come visit us the day after Thanksgiving!

Her twin girls, Ashleigh and Kaitlyn, are five (turning six in January!  I can't believe it) and I haven't seen them since they were in diapers.   A lot has changed in those few years - significantly, I discovered my absolute love, joy, and passion for playing with children!  So needless to say, spending a day with those funny, fabulous girls was a major highlight of the trip.
Me with Ashleigh - a broken arm doesn't stop this girl from anything!
They requested Ballet Music...the best I could do was Fly Like a Butterfly!
Super Ashleigh!
With my big sister Megan...Ashleigh and her broken arm are much more like her; Kaitlyn zonking out is much more like me!


It's so funny to me that I spend about 85% of my yoga life with children, and yet I hardly ever talk about them on my blog.  I think it's partly because I'm utilizing this blog to tackle Big Questions, yogic philosophy, or just my own personal interests week to week.  I think when I sit down to brainstorm or write my blog, I don't always make the connection between barking like a dog in downdog and going on yoga adventures to Samadhi.  (Samadhi = the 8th limb in the 8 Limb Path of Yoga.  Enlightenment, Higher Consciousness, Bliss...different definitions from different people, but you get the idea)

But it's exactly that silliness, spontaneity, and complete and utter presence that children possess and inspire in us that does move us toward that path of enlightened bliss.  Babies are the most effortlessly present humans on the planet.  Toddlers and kids too, although the older you get the more of that presence you tend to lose with each passing year.  Kids and babies experience each emotion to its absolute maximum, and then the next minute can transition to a completely different mood.  Watch a child go from a full fledged temper tantrum to laughing hysterically - it's exhilarating to see such a complete lack of inhibitions.  (Unless it's your kid and you're in a supermarket, I'd imagine) 

In my kids yoga classes, though, it's not like we discuss how magically present they are, and we certainly don't sit in silence and meditate.  It's through how I relate to them and through my observation of their joy and uninhibited taking-in of every moment that I learn from them in our yoga classes.  From the incredibly generous and effortless compassion of the six year old in my Queens class who spontaneously made up a song for the three year old yesterday to the toddler on Tuesday who preferred to give his mommy a foot rub rather than receive one himself, I'm learning loving kindness and compassion on a huge scale every day from children.

In my first (adult) yoga class post-Thanksgiving, the teacher made illusions throughout class of bringing a sense of childlike play to the practice.  Instead of just teaching urdhva hastasana using straightforward alignment, she encouraged us to really reach for the ceiling, just like kids genuinely try to actually touch it as if they could.  In our yogic squat, she told us to think of sitting like a frog.  Well, I've been teaching kids so much that I forgot grownups didn't think of the pose as frog squat already!  I could see from some of the reactions around the room, though, that not everyone was used to thinking in silly terms during a hardcore vinyasa practice.  Our teacher was trying to remind us not to take ourselves and the practice so seriously, and I smiled to myself and gave a little prayer of thanks to my job for reminding me of that every single day.

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