Our living room couch looks like a giant beige marshmallow. Our two dogs think it is their bed, despite every effort made to train them to sleep on their actual dog bed. Our son thinks it is his superhero layer. He “flies” from one end to the other wearing his bright red cape and pajamas shouting things like “I will save you, princess!” The couch is never presentable looking and is always covered in dogs, children, toys, and snacks. The best couch activity is when I spy my son flipping his body upside-down so that he can see the world from a new perspective. “Mom! I’m standing on my head!” His little body is bent in funny angles with his feet stretched out in the air and his little face turning pink. My son loves to move his body in extreme ways. He is always flying, running, teaching himself a new goofy dance or squishing himself to fit inside cupboards and closets.
For a while I found myself exhausted trying to maintain a constant hover to protect him from falling over and getting bruises. Wild he may be, but unbreakable he is not. My son has hemophilia, which is a bleeding disorder that prevents his blood from clotting properly. Any time he gets a bruise it grows and grows and sometimes requires treatment from his doctor. Mostly his bruises require quiet time on the couch with bags of ice. And since he is seemingly always on the couch with a bag of ice it is simply no wonder that he has massive amounts of energy stored up for flying and running like a wild maniac.
To help get some of this crazy energy out I gave my son my old yoga mat and I encourage him to learn fun yoga poses like cobra and boat pose or downward dog and tree pose. He loves it. He is so bendy and flexible that he is able to just morph his little body into nearly any shape. Meanwhile, I am struggling to get my legs straight in downward dog.
Yoga has allowed me to understand and explore my body mind connection in a profound but simple way. When I breathe and move I feel good. Endorphins are released into my blood stream and I smile. When my son does yoga he thinks he is doing something that grown ups do and so it makes him feel special. With help he can take serious poses like a headstand and hold it while giggling like the proud little monkey he is. He can hold his hands together and say “Namaste”. He can take deep breaths and calm his body. He is a yogi.
Yoga has become a great parenting tool to turn to when my son is out of control. The age of four brings many challenges not the least of which are meltdowns. It gets tricky to find ways to get him to stop throwing, screaming, and hitting when he gets himself worked up. I have been telling him for months to “take a deep breath” and to give his body a “hard hug”. Sometime this works and sometimes it doesn’t. When it does work, he is able to chill out quickly and get to a place where he can talk about what has him upset. When it doesn’t work – and I mean when it fails spectacularly and I am yelling and he is yelling and timeouts are threatened and the order of the universe is slipping away – I take my own advice and breath deep. If he is going to be a crazy hot mess then at the very least I can be sane one.
The benefits of yoga for children are simply astounding. Kids can learn to control their stormy emotions; they can learn patience and cultivate self-love and compassion. The physical act of yoga gets those small bodies moving and stretching and working hard. Kids can achieve better balance, strength, flexibility and mental focus through practice. Yoga also holds the opportunity for community building through group classes and activities where kids learn how to depend on the strength of their own bodies while also learning to build relationships with others.
I don’t know that yoga will be an activity that sticks for my kid. I imagine that at some point when he tries to separate himself from my motherly clutches he will protest his time on the mat. For now, though, this time is precious. He thinks I’m a super genius with all the answers to every question in the universe. He trusts me. So when I tell him that yoga is the special work of superheros, he believes me. We use this yoga time together to play and connect and I absolutely love it.
© Sarah Cottrell and www.sarahcottrell.wordpress.com and Housewife Plus, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Sarah Cottrell and www.sarahcottrell.wordpress.com and Housewife Plus with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.