“Don’t let her up there alone” ……. “Watch he doesn’t fall”. These were regular shout outs to my husband as my children would play around the house or at a park. “Oh no that’s too high,” or “watch her neck.” I always knew that my husband and family were fed up with my anxiety but I couldn’t help it. The fear of something happening to Aaleah (6) and Lucas (3) washed over me every time my kids tried to be……..well let’s face it, be Kids!!! I would watch other kids my children’s age jumping off high beams or flipping around monkey bars…….. But not my children as they took each step cautiously and with fear…fear that I had given them.
I then began to study, as well as run a small business, and life with two young kids became busier than I could have ever imagined. Regular break downs due to stress, a cranky mum who was yelling at her children for spilling biscuits on the ground (because I had just cleaned the floor and was too busy to have to clean it again……silly right?). I would race around in the mornings so caught up in my own stress and mind that I began to fluster the kids. Life was crazy, there was no other word for it. I was rushing my children’s life just like I was rushing my life, and I was missing out on their most precious moments.
“Mum, mum, mum, mum” the name would be called several times before I would snap “what?” Their little heads would drop as they either responded; “Nothing” and walked away, or by the time they began telling me, I was so caught in my own thought processes that I hardly heard what they had said anyway. I knew I was doing it, and felt guilty for it, something had to change.
I looked at my husband one night and said “a school of yoga has opened up, maybe I should give it a try.” He laughed and responded “if you want.” I had tried so many different ways to calm my life and anxiety and none had worked, so my husband’s laugh just verified, what made me think yoga was going to help?
My heart raced as I pulled up at the school for the first time, and as I began my first few weeks it was exciting. The new experience excited me, thrilled me. I stayed with the school for a few months however I don’t think I took my yoga practise seriously until I had taken five months off from the school due to health reasons with Aaleah. It was in that five months that I knew I had the very early skills needed to begin tracking my mind and body. I knew I had to get back. When I entered the room for the second time round, I walked in, with excitement still, but this time it was more of a sense of “this is what I want,” and I felt connected to the room in a way I hadn’t before.
I embarked on the journey the second time round, listening deeply to all that Polly had to teach, offer and share. Her wisdom and experience inspired me. As we lied in Shavasana one evening, Polly focused in our breath, and softly spoke, “Watch where the mind wonders, it is where the mind wonders that we focus our attention.” At first it didn’t click but as I sat in the car and drove home I began thinking about the future. I almost had to stop my car. It was like a light bulb moment. THE FUTURE….that is where my mind constantly goes. I am so focused on my future that I am missing the here and now. It was also at that point that all my study on anxiety at university all made sense. Anxiety is predominantly triggered by the fear of something happening in the future. Everything instantly connected the dots. When my children played I was so worried about the “what ifs” in my mind that I was removing the fun of being a child in the here and now.
One of my favourite phrases was read in Dan Millman’s book, “The way of a peaceful warrior.” He (Socrates) discussed the difference between the mind and the brain. Socrates explained how the brain directs the body, moves the body and stores important information; but the mind is an obstruction, an aggravation to humans. Socrates says “the brain is real: the mind isn’t”. The change didn’t happen overnight, it took a lot of work to develop an awareness of how to train my mind and be conscious of when it would wonder. The more I practised at home, the more I noticed Aaleah and Lucas joining in. They became so intrigued in mums yoga that their little bodies began to move in the same way mine did.
As my anxiety started to subside, I became more relaxed, happy, and so did my children. I installed ropes at home in which I would hang upside down in a rope head stand (sirsasana). Now if you were a child and your mum wouldn’t let you do flips on the monkey bars, you can only imagine their little faces of excitement as mum showed them how she hung upside down. “Wow mum”…”That’s really cool”. And that is where the big shift and change began.
The confidence in my children shone bright. Aaleah began to flip around on the monkey bars and swings, I watched Lucas jump off the edge of the trampoline, and to my surprise the fear of something happening became less and less evident (I think as a mother the concern will always remain there) however I was letting go of the what if’s. I let them play, flip and jump. I began to notice something even deeper. Instead of me sitting, watching and gasping, I was now out there laughing and cheering as they squealed with excitement to show me their newest “circus moves”. Aaleah now spends half of her day hanging around upside down, whether it is on the monkey bars, on the lounge or in my ropes. Lucas acts like a little boy should, fearless and brave.
And then the comments started from family and friends. The change in me was now shining out to all those around me. I now portrayed a sense of calmness. “I’ve noticed how calm you are” or ”you don’t seem as worried as you usually are” and “your so much more relaxed with the children.” All my hard work was paying off, internally and externally.
I am grateful for the practise of yoga in my life. I am still in my very early days, however the early days are what has helped me realise I can do this and I want to do this. The stillness, the calmness that has entered my life due to taking up this practise fills me with joy every day. Yoga has helped me appreciate the special moments with my children. My children only need to say “mum” once and I listen, to every word their precious little voices have to tell me. I listen with a clear mind, and understand what they are telling me. We laugh, because I am there with them, not lost in the future. I was missing so much before I embarked on the yoga journey. We ride more, we smell the flowers more, we giggle more, and most of all I see more.
Practically speaking, when we are stiff in our hips and hamstrings our knees and ankles are ‘punished’. At some stage it is better to be accountable/aware of how to work with our hamstrings and hips so that the knees and ankles are able to get on with their work. It’s also the case in twisting poses that people twist into the flexible areas of their spine and in doing so completely miss the area that needs to be ‘accountable’: we are slipping around a stiffness and there will be consequences.
Our yoga classes for children have been running for 4 years and some of the feedback we get from parents and also teachers is amazing and encouraging. Children experience stress for lots of different reasons and yoga helps them to 'discharge' it through physical movements and also through breathing exercises and meditation.
When we go camping, we sit in awe of the magnificence of the mountain, the oceans, the sky. We go there because we recognize that some thing changes within us when we sit quietly within the wonderment of nature. We say "I am different", "I am happier", "I am energized", "I am more content". When we practice yoga we learn to sit in the wonderment of our embodiment. It is our microcosm of the macrocosm of nature. We recognize that being in the power of our own presence is a practice of being at one with the forces of nature.