How Yoga Made Me A Better Parent
My wife and I are the proud parents of six beautiful children. Raising six kids in this day and age is challenging, to say the least. We love each other very much, but with so many different personalities interacting, sometimes there is discord. For the most part, we all get along pretty well. But it hasn’t always been that way.
My wife and I started our yoga journey five years ago and have since immersed ourselves in yoga in every sense of the word. My wife, Yulady, is now an accomplished yoga teacher and I recently left my job as a criminal defense lawyer after 23 years and am now a yoga teacher as well. We both practice yoga everyday. We also practice asana everyday. The transformation yoga has brought about in our lives as people and parents is staggering.
Before we practiced everyday, we were exercise fanatics. We enjoyed many forms of exercise such as rock climbing, weightlifting, cardio, etc. The physical benefits of exercise can’t be denied and we rode those endorphins for many years.
While we were physically strong and in shape, everything else was a mess. We were quick to become angry at the smallest of issues. We used very traditional parenting methods (time-outs, grounding, taking away privileges, etc.) and thought we were doing a good job of preparing our children for the world.
In reality, we were not creating serenity in our home. Both my wife and I carried a tremendous amount of stress. We felt like the world owed us something and we generally thought of our own needs before thinking about the needs of others, including our children. Although we didn’t realize it, we passed this stress along to our children.
Then we found yoga. Believe it or not my ex-wife, with whom we maintained an excellent relationship, suggested we take a yoga class to complement the other exercises we were doing. The light switch didn’t go on immediately. We simply exercised through what we thought was yoga, namely asana practice. It felt marvelous every time we left a class. Our obsession with other exercise fell off sharply.
The draw of yoga was so powerful, and we were so new and naïve, that we had no clue why we felt like we did. As our interest and knowledge grew and we soon learned that yoga had a much broader definition than poses and was instead a lifestyle, encompassing everything from diet to meditation and even breathing.
As we delved into yoga, our lives changed, and our attitudes toward everything changed. Our parenting style radically changed. When there was fighting between the kids, we would attack the issue from a totally different place, a place of deep love and kindness. Instead of time-outs and punishments, we would sit them down and do breathing exercises and meditation techniques.
As if by magic, the children were changing before our eyes. The breathing and meditation we were using with them really was an attractive solution that the kids actually enjoyed. Our children saw the difference. Our children became more and more curious about meditation, asana, and breath exercises, basically all of it because they saw how different we had become.
Our home became a quite place, full of love and caring. Gone were the bickering, fighting, selfishness and angst. By infusing our yoga practice into our parenting, we had found a way to help our children deal with life on a more authentic and original level.
Instead of punishing our kids, we help them meditate on what they did wrong. Now they like to meditate just because it brings peace and calm. Instead of yelling at them about this or that, we sit quietly with them and do breathing exercises. Now we don’t have to explain the benefits of the breathing exercises because they do them on their own. Instead of getting angry, we practice asana with them.
Guess what? Now they ask to practice asana with us. They range in age from 6 to 19 and they get it. Yoga works. It makes you a better person and certainly a better parent. We believe it’s our job as parents to give our children the tools to handle life. We freely give to them what was given to us. Raising little yogis is not easy, but it’s a heck of a lot easier than raising little non-yogis! I know our children will pass this gift to their own children.