My children recently executed yogasanas that would have indubitably shaken a Cirque du Soleil acrobat in midair. OK, that is an overstatement. But the fact is my children did take yoga lessons. A visiting Swamiji from Belgaum, India, conducted a three-week yoga class at a local park, and although my children attended only the final week of class, the results were surprising, enduring, and uplifting.
Neither of my children had any yoga experience prior to this class. Though I have been practicing yoga on and off since I was a teenager and more consistently in recent years, my attempts to teach yoga to my children had been unproductive. The swamiji’s class dropped into my lap, albeit last minute, but turned out to be a real blessing.
All yogis and yoginis know that yoga is not a quick fix. At least for us adults, a rewarding yoga routine takes time to instill, an open mind, and above all a commitment to integrate the yogic principles of harmonious, balanced living—keeping stress to a minimum, getting enough sleep, mindful eating, spending time in nature, practicing asanas, pranayama, and meditation—into our present day epicurean lifestyles. Supple bodies and receptive minds, on the other hand, make young children more resilient and predisposed for yoga training.
Coming back to my children—they reluctantly joined the class. I guess they figured they could check off one more item on their “Let’s Hush Mom’s Nagging” checklist.
My 12-year-old son was quite sincere of his expectations: He had none! He claimed he had enough peace in his life and hence didn’t really need any yoga. While it was refreshing to hear that he had peace, his nonchalance was just the trigger I needed to deliver yet another soporific lecture about the benefits of yoga. My younger son, on the contrary, was more receptive to the experience.
The first couple days of class were pure agony. All the bending, twisting, squeezing, holding, spiraling, folding, lifting, balancing, compressing, and airborne sequences of the asanas took my children by surprise, leaving them sore and exhausted. Meditation was a tall order given their trifling attention span, like most kids in the digital age. I saw them squirm, scratch, even twitch as they struggled through meditation. So much for relaxation! Despite the distractions, I must admit that they stayed the course, explored their limits, and showed a genuine interest in improving on their imperfections.
In less than a week, I observed first-hand the transformative effects of attentive breathing, chanting, meditation and postures in my children. While they didn’t drop pant sizes or whittle inches off their waist (I’d be concerned if they did), they developed a lingering awareness of their physical potential. Devoid of discontent, they discovered ways to channel their lethargy and unfulfilled mental and spiritual energies into the creative art of yoga.
As a result of the class, my 10-year-old can do the kakasana and the halasana at a moment’s notice. My older son is able to perform the Surya Namaskar with astounding agility. They can actually situate on one foot without jiggling their bodies out of balance.
Watching them rise majestically and glide securely and adroitly into the various poses is heartwarming. Their mental energies harnessed, they feel empowered, knowing that they can accomplish anything they set their minds to doing. My younger son says yoga has calmed his mind and he is able to better focus on the task at hand.
Following the end of class, we have continued our yoga practice as a family. A vegetating hour we would have squandered watching a TV rerun for the n-th time is now spent productively in the yogic pleasure of one another’s company—one of the best gifts we’ve ever given each other.
Raji Lukkoor is a full-time mom, writer, and yoga enthusiast, who currently resides in Saratoga.
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