Winter is here in full force (finally). This past weekend we got hit with the largest snowfall our area has seen in almost 20 years, getting over 16 inches in a 24-hour period. Being snowed-in alone with two children under the age of 7 with the possibility of power outages didn’t sound like a barrel of fun, so we (dog included) loaded up and moved in with my mom for 4 days because she has a generator.
We quickly discovered how being inside watching the snow fall made us want to cook, bake, and eat as if we were storing up food for hibernation! Well, I don’t know about you, but the holidays were enough for me so I don’t need any weight gain now. I thought, “I’m a Yoga teacher, why aren’t we doing some Yoga or exercise while stuck inside?” There’s just something about being trapped that says “curl up with a blanket, a book, and some tea.” My Yoga mat was also outside in my van….
After I ate almost an entire batch of gluten-free chocolate chip cookies (fyi, gluten free does not equal low-fat or healthy), I decided I needed to burn some energy. We got out the latest home dance-workout DVD craze and got to work. It was a blast! Even my 18-month old got in on the action! Now, as a kids Yoga teacher, I do have to bust a move from week to week to keep up with them, but a dancer I am not (except in the privacy of my own kitchen). Well, let’s just say, this old momma may have been smokin’ the 7-year old a bit. After we finished the DVD the second time, I was a sweaty mess. As I went to clean myself up, something hit me about what that hour with my son teaches him (and me) through my actions.
He wanted to give up. He used to do a daily Yoga practice and recently has not been doing it unless I do it with him. I’ve noticed his endurance has decreased in other activities since this. During the video he was barely using his muscles, while I was fully engaged in each movement with awareness of my body and breath. He complained of thirst, muscles hurting, being out of breath or too hot, the moves being too difficult, he couldn’t keep his balance, and basically anything to stop. Initially I caught myself chiding him instead of encouraging (not my finest moment I’ll admit). This is what I learned:
- Family Yoga/exercise time teaches our children endurance, stick-to-it-iveness, and encourages effort and intention over perfection. Exercise is hard. It is important as parents to challenge ourselves so our children see our effort rather than just hear our words. If we give up, why should they keep going when things are challenging?
- Family Yoga/exercise builds strength. Physical strength is a nice by-product of physical exercise, but it also takes mental strength to believe in oneself and keep going (back to endurance). Regular exercise or Yoga practice will build muscles and train the mind; it will also strengthen family bonds via the quality time together. When our children see us doing what we also expect them to do, it strengthens trust and respect.
- Family Yoga/exercise helps children find balance in difficult transitions. Change is everywhere, and no one is immune to its effects. This dance video, much like a strong vinyasa flow practice, challenged my ability to quickly shift positions or directions and maintain balance and stability. My son noticed it too in himself. If we practice finding physical balance and stability in transitioning from one posture to another (or dance moves), when life demands the same balance, we can connect to the physical experience. It is then we can believe in ourselves, remembering that time we found impeccable balance in a difficult transition on the mat. Children make these connections quite easily too (it’s a great conversation starter).
In closing, those snowed-in exercise sessions taught me to continue leading by example because what my children see affects who they become in this world. I’m sure I knew this already, but I became keenly aware as I sweated through each movement and did not stop, just to show him it could be done. I learned children need encouragement to keep going, to do their best, effort and forward motion is always better than giving up, and to not take themselves too seriously. As parents and adults, we could take each of those to heart as well.