we here at familyoga have been refining our techniques. we are consistently trying and experimenting with different ways to do the practice – asking ourselves important questions like: what yogic techniques will best serve the needs of our children and ourselves? how does the practice shift and change as we move through the seasons (is our yoga space/living room hot and humid or is it cool and drafty? – what about now that it is dark earlier in the evening?) what kind of preparation needs to be done to create enough physical space for 6 of us to do a practice? and, at the end of a day, what do brett and i realistically have the time and energy for? these issues….and more, all factor into the reality of familyoga.
i have mentioned in a previous post, that we have shifted from a primarily asana yoga practice to a practice more focused on meditation. the last few weeks of summer and into early fall were the perfect times to explore our familyoga walking meditation practice. now, that the sky darkens around dinner time and the air is chilly, we have been practicing group seated vipassana meditation techniques. these sessions, both walking and seated meditation with my partner and our children have allowed us to continue to refine our strategies and answer some of the questions listed in the paragraph above.
the good news is that i believe we have discovered a routine that will work for us. woohoo! we have begun an evening ritual that has us doing seated yoga poses and seated meditation. so far, it’s worked out well. we spend about 15 minutes with the poses and about 10 minutes with the mindfulness meditation. win win!
this path seems to work well for isabel – and like i’ve said before: she sets the tone for the attitude of her sisters. so, if isabel is cynical and grouchy about the practice – her sisters are too. on the other hand, if isabel is willing and gracious – the others fall in line. the seated poses sequences are good for isabel. she seems to follow along with more confidence and grace than when we were practicing sun salutations and standing pose sequences. (maybe she secretly wants to learn yin yoga 😉 all in all, seated poses seem less intimidating and more accessible to all the girls – which is funny and somewhat counterintuitive to much of the theory about how the hatha yoga should be taught.
in general, the guidelines for hatha yoga are to teach standing poses to beginners first – for they build strength, flexibility and endurance in the most well-rounded way. seated poses are thought to be most difficult for beginners and prone to alignment issues and possible injury. yet, as most of us know…..children are unique. they are agile back-benders. they are quick. they try anything. they give direct feedback – with no filter. (i have heard a few times, “mom, this stinks. i hate familyoga.”) children will try inversions with no fear of falling. in fact, they seem to relish the fall. children are not pre-occupied with what the pose looks like….or is supposed to look like. they regularly mix-up right and left sides. they struggle with forward bends.
our approach to the refinement of our familyoga practice has been one of exploration and alchemy. for within the broad, expansive view of the yoga practice – we know that yoga meets you where you are. you begin – anchored in the present moment, encapsulated in this body – with all its abilities and limitations – in gratitude, for we are truly blessed to be willing and able to move these bodies, to explore our ranges of motions – to fully embody ourselves. this is our starting point. and then we explore. we shift and change – mimicking and connecting to the changes all around us. we observe. we reflect upon the observations. we lean into them. we notice their permeability. who is doing this thinking? who is making these observations? can we notice space between our thoughts? can we exist as human be-ings, balanced within our capacity to be human do-ings? all these questions and factors have merged into the mosaic of the manifestation of our familyoga practice. we struggle and sometimes we succeed. we shift and transform, like the shadows cast by the high sun, of the trees blowing gently in the autumn breeze.
after our most recent familyoga session, sophia (who has a deserving reputation of being undeniably cute and endearing) was very excited about her yoga practice. she began a monologue. “mom, i love the yoga. i want to learn more. i want to learn the hard poses.” then, she continued with questions. “can i please come to yoga class with you? when i am 6 and a half years old, then, can i come to yoga?” she followed this cuteness up with more yoga enthusiasm the next day. i went upstairs and heard loud, passionate classical music coming from the cd player in her bedroom. i opened the door a crack and peeked in. i saw her in her “workout clothes” – which, because she is in a gender busting “boy” phase, consisted of bare chest and what she calls her “boxers” (basically, pajama shorts) – and she was in full sirsasana (headstand) in the corner of her room. no words were spoken. we knowingly gazed at each other – in silent agreement – yoga is pretty great. i closed the door, smiled to myself and walked down the hall.