When I first started practicing yoga a decade ago, I was looking for an activity that would give me a reprieve from my busy, chaotic life. Yoga was going to help me feel more balanced, less anxious, and to grow stronger and more comfortable in my own skin.
But I struggled showing up on my mat consistently. “I’ll just do it tomorrow” became my mantra. (What’s that saying about putting off for tomorrow? Yeah, guilty.)
Let’s face it, if yoga is your self-care time, and you aren’t doing it, then the problem isn’t the yoga. It’s that you aren’t giving yourself permission to prioritize yourself. I definitely wasn’t. I was giving myself permission to work late rather than go to a live class or to get sucked into cute cat videos rather than follow along with one on YouTube.
It becomes a vicious cycle. When you realize that you are wasting your “self-care time,” you feel really crappy and you need more self-care! But, instead, you find yourself watching more cat videos and then you feel crappier!
I knew I needed to change my approach to yoga (because I really did feel good when I actually did it!) So, I did a yoga teacher training. Not because I had planned to teach but, because it would be a no-excuse, kick in the butt. Afterall, I was paying for it. And I’d be required to show up on the mat and I’d learn how to do the poses correctly and repetitively over 200 hours. That was going to make it a habit and then I would prioritize it, right?
Nope. Guilty again.
I showed up for the training but then, back at home, my bad habits returned. It still felt like self-care and I still didn’t think I deserved it and I couldn’t push past. Even after I started teaching. I could practice yoga as part of designing lesson plans. But, if I didn’t have a class to teach, I’d just watch cute cat videos 80% of the time.
But when my kids were home, I could do yoga with them without any hesitation. Just not on my own. I thought about it for a long time. What was the difference?
The yoga I do with my kids is not about being calm and quiet. It’s about having fun and being together!
With my sons, we make up stories and poses. The downward dog lifts his leg up to pee on a fire hydrant. We pick apples off each other’s branches in tree poses. We pass a frisbee back and forth with our feet in boat pose. We laugh. We connect. Afterwards, I feel so much lighter, more energetic, and even more relaxed.
So, I took a Kids Yoga certification course and began teaching kids classes.
I love it! I get to tap into that creative part of myself. I get to connect with my own inner child. I give myself permission to use my imagination to come up with stories and adventures to share. And I get to learn from my students, adapting to their thoughts and desires because we are on the adventure together!
During my kids’ yoga classes, I don’t compare or judge myself. The kids stay engaged and excited because they are having fun. They don’t care if I wobble in my tree pose. We just all hold hands and help each other build a strong forest!
Teaching yoga to kids has taught me that self-care isn’t the same thing as quiet time. And it doesn’t have to be done alone. Self-care is about enjoying life and feeling connected. The word “yoga” comes from the sanskrit word for union – finding unity within yourself, with the universe, with the Supreme Being. Through teaching yoga to kids, I have become more unified.
Don’t get me wrong, I love a good savasana and there are definitely times when I need a gentle, quiet practice to soothe myself. But, there are also times when I feel like the world around me feels heavy and overwhelming. When I want to shake off the shackles of adult responsibilities. In those moments, I jump on my mat and hit the waves with surfer pose (warrior 2) or I fly off to outer space in a rocket (moving from chair to mountain pose). With my kids or own my own, my inner child takes the reins so that the adult in me can rest up and recharge.
And that makes it a whole lot easier (and more fun) to get on the mat every day.