Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Practicing Yoga With Children

Photo by Tania Franco

When I was pregnant with my son I fantasized that we would practice yoga together on the beach when he turned 2 years old. I have been practicing yoga for about 15 years, and I always wanted it to be a family practice. I was originally recommended yoga in early adulthood as a supplement to improve my health.  I tried doing yoga with my son at home a couple of times and it did not go according to my plans. He tried a few postures and then was off running, or worse jumping on me.

I waited a while feeling a bit discouraged but I knew I had to be patient about it. Later on I got my hopes up again and took him to a free class at a park.  There were about twenty 2 year olds doing yoga except for my adorable yet high energy child. We ended up running around for 20 minutes. I even broke a sweat. 

So, when I read of children’s yoga classes a few months after this experience I didn’t get my hopes up too high. I tried a few more times at home and continued to have the child jumping or hanging on me. We had some breakthrough moments when he started doing one or two sun salutations and learned how to take a few deep breaths. 

I guess I was expecting him to do a 20 minute session with me, which I now know was not very realistic of me. As he neared 4 years old I read about another class and thought “why not?” and took him to an indoor children’s class. And it went SMOOTHLY. He enjoyed himself and even tried a few postures I had not taught him before. The teacher incorporated singing at the beginning, read a children’s yoga book and did a few postures. 

Now I realized how my expectations were sky high and that I needed to bring them down a lot. I have been practicing yoga a couple times a week with my son and it lasts about 10 minutes.

We have been practicing:

2 sun salutations
Tree Pose
Cobra Pose
Two Legged Forward Bend
Corpse Pose

It is extremely important for me to teach my son a large variety of coping skills so he can learn to manage himself and have access to these as a child and as he grows. In yoga, I have personally found a means to calm my mind and physiologically create greater relaxation. It has been comforting at times and at other times invigorating. I continually feel grateful to the young gastroenterologist that sent me to yoga classes when I was 20 years old because it changed my life in such a profound way.

-Tania Franco

The following are great books to support your Parent-Child Yoga practice:
" My Daddy Is a Pretzel" by Baron Baptiste and "Watch Me Do Yoga" by Bobby Clennell

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Acknowledging Things as They Are

Photo by Tania Franco

Acknowledging things as they are can be Liberating. Sometimes the conflict is wanting things to be Different.
-Tania Franco

Friday, December 7, 2012

Meditation Made Easy

Photo by Tania Franco

The truth is meditation is simpler than you'd expect. It is attributed with such a large quantity of mind, body and spiritual benefits that it is definitely worth a try. Meditation helps stabilize emotions, reduces stress, strengthens the immune system, lowers blood pressure, and supports overall wellness. I could write many blog entries just on the numerous benefits one can attain from a daily meditation practice. 

But today we are going to focus on the practice itself. The following are a few easy steps to get you going:

Sit comfortably with your back straightened (or lay down). 
Take a few minutes, aim for 5-20 minutes (or more, but for beginners less is more).
Practice deep breathing (diaphragmatic breathing).
There are many ways to meditate and I will be writing about as many of them as possible but for the sake of beginning I'll propose the simplest.
Count your breaths and when you get distracted start over again.
Choose a word or a phrase that's meaningful to you, or pertinent to something you want to believe or feel.

Know that your mind will not be silent during your meditation. We have about 60,000 thoughts a day, and yes, you will be thinking about the most irrelevant things you can imagine. And this is OK!

Your job during this exercise is to observe without judging and to gently remind yourself to return your focus to whatever you chose to focus on. If you have 300 thoughts during your meditation and only come back once to your breath or mantra you still succeeded in meditating.

Part of the learning experience in this practice is to be okay with yourself as you are, allowing yourself to be, and letting go of expectations.

The paradox is the more you try to change something, the more it will persist. If you just let go and allow something to be just as it is then you become empowered to change.

- Tania Franco