July 7, 2011

The Little Elephant Journal- A Writing, Yoga and Parenting Community.

The Yoga of Parenting is alive and well here at Elephant Journal. This massive open forum is hosting a plethora of parenting dialogue from quite a few serious parenting yogis. As a new parent myself, I couldn’t be more excited.

Just ask around this ginormous kula and you’ll find a whole slew of flow guides that can ease your transition from the mat into the nursery. Current trends are also showing potential growth in the parenting aisle as many writers here at EJ are more than obviously not afraid to discuss the beauty of human sexuality. And the only logical sequence to such matters will inevitably result in more children.

"Bump Yoga"

If this miraculous experience is chosen for you, start by reading how yoga saved Sophie Legrand’s back during pregnancy. While you’re there notice how the benefits of her practice went beyond alleviating her back pain and improving her mood. Like Sophie, it can also help new moms “catch up on sleep during Savasana.” But like no other experience on the mat, it will allow you to transcend the yoga experience of “I” into something much bigger. It’s partner yoga like never before.

After you’re signed up for pre-natal classes you may want to re-hash Kimberly Johnsons’s piece that vividly depicts “what childbirth taught her that yoga never could.” I certainly can’t speak from the same experience as Kim, but even as a spectator at my child’s birth I would agree 100% that while “yoga gives you bite-size chunks of difficulty and intensity to digest at your own pace, birth shoves it down your throat.” As real as it gets, the article will keep soon-to-be-Moms on their tired toes for a long 9 months until the eventual day that “NOTHING can prepare you for . . .”

Luckily, Dad’s are always prepared. The night my daughter was born, my wife and I drove an hour to the closest birthing center (yes that was planned) and after the midwife performed her initial evaluation (6 cm) she calmly said, “I’ll be outside if you need anything.” That very moment, I was born into fatherhood.

Five months prior to that moment, my wife, Erica had said to me, “When I’m in labor, don’t ask me if I want a backrub or more water, just give it to me.” I wrote that exact sentence down and immediately compiled a checklist underneath it: breathe; more water; breathe (reminding myself); encourage; change position (chair, bed, shower, ball, pool) and movement! Lights off; candles; aromatherapy; more encouragement; a cold damp cloth for her forehead; massage, hand to squeeze; music volume; tone; CALM, PRESENT—PICK YOUR JAW UP FROM THE FLOOR.

Next time I am going to add to the list – Stop Crying. My wife didn’t cry once, and she was doing all the work.

Most women remember that it hurts, but fewer remember the actual pain. Otherwise, the entire world would have a voluntary single child policy. Perhaps the pain is merely shadowed by the indescribable diametric shift that follows the little being out from whatever other world they came from. My daughter’s birth was the most intense, psychedelic experience of my life.  And my wife, who transcended into the epitome of the Shakti life force, moved in perfect harmony with God’s rhythm (for over 24 hours).

After the big birthday, it’s a while before anyone gets on the mat for a rigorous vinyasa flow; but from day one, you’ll find the words of Samantha King’s piece reminding you of yet another great yoga paradox. Even after years of practice and profound self-realizations, you may also find “the tricky part of being a domestic yogi” is bringing those “deeper truths that you’ve unearthed from practice into real life and living them each moment to moment… Children have a natural way of forcing you, ready or not, into each moment.”  Which is why I am writing this at 5am.

It may sound strange but there’s actually a very fine line between submerging into the spiritual bliss of long unwavering staring contests with your infant and wiping water-soluble breast milk poo off your pants 8 minutes before you leave for work. Both reveal every ounce of weakness and every fiber of strength you have ever before conceived.

Sounds like fun, right?

Well, if this isn’t too overwhelming and you’re not already clicking around for the next EJ article about why we like being single, let me recommend that you read this Buddhist Guide to Parenting by John Pappas. It’s a great read both for parents who do not practice buddhism and for buddhists who are not practicing parents. John’s seamless transition between the world of silence and the world of terrifying pterodactyl-like two year olds is worthy of an elephant Pulitzer. Check out this passage:

“I can think of little that is more engaged than parenting. There is no part where my child begins and I end. I will not know what I am doing. All moments are novel and free from attachments. This one is learning directly from your example. This one is learning directly from your practice. Just as through conception your genes (for better or worse) are passed on to your child; as they grow and develop, your karma is passed right along as they absorb, imitate and evolve. Embrace Not Knowing. Forget about the knowledge you possess or acquired before becoming a parent. Allow yourself to learn and grow. Forget about the knowledge you learned as a parent of an infant. That infant is now a toddler. Forget what you learned as a parent of a toddler. That toddler is now a child. Just forget. There are no absolute truths to parenting, only guideposts and fences. Parenting is found in life and not in knowledge from words and books. It is born through experience and our own innate nature to nurture and encourage growth. Let that nature guide your parenting.”

And it will guide you through long days and longer nights until your presence is completely exhausted. When you’re ready to crash for a full 10-hour restorative sleep session your kids are bright-eyed and bushy-tailed for the next adventure in Dad and Mom play world. No worries, now you’re fully prepared, thanks to Laurie “the queen of kid yoga” Jordan’s bedtime yoga for kids. Because seriously, who doesn’t want a little “Jiggle and Wiggle” before they go to sleep every night.

If all goes right and your kids are well rested and well nourished, perhaps they’ll become your own personal motivational figure, like Lynn Hasselberger’s son who inspired her to go green. Quite an inspirational story. In the end I was left asking myself- Can we possibly continue our earth destructive behaviors while simultaneously looking in to the eyes of our children?

Fast Forwarding a few years past the age of innocence, yoga may actually become a tool for the truly terrifying teenage years. And like Amy Nobles Dolan, you’ll constantly be deciphering “What’s Really Going on When Your Teen Loses It.” Thanks to Amy, I am definitely less anxious about the day when my daughter begins her Prehistoric Monster Syndrome (PMS) behaviors.

It’s a good thing we have all of these experienced parents or else we might think it actually gets easier after they finish high school. Worrying is pointless. Just remain present and open to their infinite potential for anything. And when your mind eventually drifts off even further into your child’s unknown future, please be sure to catch up on James Altucher’s 10 reasons you shouldn’t send your kids to college.

That is unless, they attend a university that offers an “Innovative Class That Blends Theory and Practice of Yoga”

By then, I only hope to remember how I marveled daily at our daughter’s full body-baby yogic expressions. How she spread each of her toes with every yawn. How hiccups could send her into a transient daze the likes of Cheech and Chong. And how her sneezes were preceded by an inhalation that expanded everything from her belly to her eyebrows.

The day when drool is cute and when her thumb-suckin’-asana is seen as an act of pure genius will soon be gone. But right now, I am grinning ear to ear as I watch her always hysterical after sleep stretch, tickled at the sight of her arms fully extended upwards, though her hands barely peak over the top of her head.

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