by Julie Pate, Certified YogaKids Teacher
When I started the YogaKids training, my two sons were two and four; I was knee-deep in diapers, temper tantrums, and playgroups. I would often sit, buried in piles of brightly colored plastic toys and wonder if I would survive the toddler years. Days would pass slowly, filled with an endless stream of mundane parenting tasks. I felt as if pieces of me were being carried out of the house with each bag of dirty diapers.
The yoga tradition teaches us to be present in the moment, because it is in the moment that true joy can be found. Fretting about the past and worrying about the future is said to be a true path to suffering. This is a tough realization when your moment is a 2 year-old screaming in the grocery store because he wants to get out of the cart and throw paper towel rolls across the aisle.
The first few years of my son’s life, I did have a yoga practice. However, what I found was that a few hours on my yoga mat each week was just scratching the surface of what I really needed to cultivate a connection to joy. My previous practice was perfect for the life of a carefree young thirty something with a great job and a loving husband. Introducing two energetic toddlers to the mix, for me, was a recipe for stress and unhappiness.
Shortly after my youngest son turned two, I was teaching adult yoga at a wellness center when the program director approached me to start a kids program. I didn’t know anything about teaching kids, and I could not imagine teaching children what I considered to be a very adult practice. I wondered how I could get kids to sit quietly and breathe, when my own sons seemed to be racing through their days at 110 miles per hour. The idea intrigued me enough to look into certification programs. I decided to pursue certification with YogaKids because the program is well-known, respected, and comprehensive. I had read Marsha Wenig’s book YogaKids Educating the Whole Child Through Yoga and loved her creative, fun approach to not only yoga, but life.
When I began on my YogaKids journey, it never occurred to me that I would benefit so personally from the program. My spiritual, personal, and professional growth was so profound, it became central to the certification process for me — and the actual CYKT (Certified YogaKids Teacher) behind my name was a fringe benefit.
During the At-Home Practicum, YogaKids introduced me to some wonderful resources. Erich Schiffmann in Yoga the Spirit and practice of Moving into Stillness shares that “The way you think and define yourself is central to your perception, behavior, and experience of the world.” This really resonated with my experience at the time. I was seeing myself as caretaker, and had pushed aside the wife, friend, teacher and student that I was before I had children. My time on the mat helped me to connect to my best self, the part of me that I most wanted to cultivate — and the YogaKids program helped me to see that.
Another one of Marsha’s suggested books is Living Your Yoga by Judith Lasater. In the book, Judith says “Everything changes in this world, but flowers will open each spring just as usual.” This too resonated deeply with me. Even though my life had changed so dramatically, the beautiful things remained and were just waiting for me to notice them. Not only had the beauty remained, but my whole life was opened up to new possibilities of love that only a parent can fully understand. The joy of seeing your child laugh, learn, grow, and love is a joy that is almost beyond comprehension.
There are over 175 original YogaKids poses, and Marsha teaches to remain present while practicing each pose. The awareness I practiced while in the poses stayed with me and began to affect my whole life. I noticed my body response when I became angry with my children; it was almost as if I could step outside of myself and view negative behaviors with compassion and understanding. I didn’t want to become angry when my sons fought with each other or were disobedient. I wanted to parent with kindness, love, and gentle guidance.
The awareness that YogaKids required of me in the practice began to seep into the rest of my life. I was able to pause and notice when I was about to exhibit a behavior I didn’t want to with my family. I was able to change my mood quickly and react from a place of love to the many challenges in the day of a parent. The time I spent as a YogaKids Apprentice (YKA) was time spent cultivating love, creativity, and a childlike wonder for the world. YogaKids helped me to see that, for me, anything was possible. As a YKA, I was in my heart-space, and it was a place I really liked to be. I began to yell less, stress less, react to challenges with patience and love, and truly savor moments with my family.
Parenthood can be a time of great inner turmoil, but the YogaKids program teaches a calm approach to caring for yourself and your children. It teaches you to be with your children in the all-important present moment. YogaKids teaches you to be mindful, and mindful living provides you with energy, calmness and the potential for insights. Here is hoping you have many great parenting moments with your YogaKids today.