By Claire Heffron
“You’ll never catch me!” I hear the little voice upstairs accompanied by the bam-bam-bamming of plastic superhero on metal bed railing.
It is supposed to be nap time. My yoga time. My sanity. Curled into Child’s Pose, I try to ignore the sounds of my should-be-napping four-year-old and focus on my intention: shutting out the stresses of everyday life, the looming work deadlines, the packed calendar and finding a little peace and quiet.
I am balancing precariously, knees on elbows, in Crow Pose when I realize I have an audience at the bottom of the stairs. It’s the superhero bammer. I stumble out of the pose and order him back up to bed NOW. He turns and scurries back up the stairs. “Peace and quiet,” whispers my inner voice.
A few minutes later, feeling the painfully invisible chair of Chair Pose, I hear that familiar creak of the stairs and a voice. “Mom, I really need a pen and paper.” My inner voice begs me to return to my intention, but it’s too late. Flushed with frustration, I rush him back to his room. By now my inner voice is no longer whispering. “I SAID PEACE AND QUIET DAMMIT!” And I’ve done it. I’ve actually broken my inner voice’s spirit. I roll up my mat, along with it any peace and quiet that’s left in the house, and stuff it all back into the closet.
Lately, I’ve found myself blaming my two boys for a string of failed yoga sessions like this one. They are distracting and loud. They need me nearly every moment of the day (even when they’re supposed to be asleep). I even started thinking that my life as a mom of two rough, noisy, preschool-aged boys simply wasn’t compatible with yoga anymore. There were just too few moments of silence and calm to practice mindfulness, to be present.
But during one recent yoga session, these two noisy creatures revealed themselves as the little yoga teachers they truly are. I decided one day to see if I could practice yoga for a few minutes in the middle of the morning, with both of them awake. I was skeptical. Previous yoga sessions with the boys had resulted in a couple of very uncomfortable pile-on-mom yoga poses. Sometimes, I would try to help them follow along with my practice, teaching them the names of the poses, but I usually ended up frustrated by their short attention spans and their compulsion to jump onto my back the minute I got down onto the floor. They just can’t help themselves. Somehow though, this day was different. I decided not to try so hard to get them involved. I didn’t even talk about what I was going to do. I simply rolled out my mat and started.
A few minutes in, leaning into Downward Dog, I noticed my two-year-old squatting awkwardly near my mat with his hands in prayer. He was looking at me with a furrowed brow, seemingly intent on mimicking my position. Once he finally figured out how to bend himself into a Downward Dog, he inched onto my mat, tucking his little inverted V perfectly beneath mine. For a couple of seconds, we hovered there like two living, breathing nesting cups. It was like he was saying, “Go ahead mom. Do your yoga, but don’t forget to listen too.”
Without a word, he returned to crashing matchbox cars noisily down the stairs with his brother. I finished my practice; the boys crashed their cars. But somehow the noise was different this time.
In this one simple moment, I realized that I could still find that feeling of peaceful flow even while listening to their screams, their laughter, their crashing, and their arguing. And rather than feeling frustrated, allowing their noise into the experience actually made me feel lighter.
And so it turned out to be a thumb-sucking two-year-old who taught me that being present isn’t necessarily about being quiet. That mindfulness is less about shutting out and more about opening up and letting in. For me, it’s about letting in the sights, sounds, and yes … sometimes the smells … of my kid-filled world and finding a new kind of peace. My home yoga practice looks a little different now. I don’t always wait until nap time to roll out my mat. While other yogis fix their meditative stare on a statue of Buddha, my gaze often meets Spider Man’s as I sink into a lunge. The other day, I caught a glimpse of one of the boys ducking under my extended leg with a dripping popsicle. This is my new yoga. My new peace and quiet, my new mindfulness. It’s about hearing and noticing the chaos and then finding the quiet that’s inside of me, slinging it over my shoulder like a quiver of arrows, and holding onto it for dear life as I walk head-on into the noise.
Claire Heffron is a wife, a mom, and an occupational therapist working in preschool and primary school settings to promote independence and participation for children with special needs. After spending the day surrounded by noisy preschoolers, Claire relies on writing and her yoga practice to bring her back to center. Her article, Tiny Treasures was featured in Brain, Child in February 2013.
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