How a Baby Taught me Yoga
We often say that kids teach us about life, but we usually mean in a spiritual, or psychological sense rather than in a physical sense. Let’s face it, kids are not always the most graceful and coordinated, and many of the physical tasks they are still learning we have mastered long ago. But, if you stop to think about it, children are completing very difficult physical tasks in a relatively short periods of time, because they have the desire to try, and lack of inhibition we face as adults.
As a nanny for many years, I started watching this particular baby when she was 8 months old. At the time, she was just sitting up on her own and could not yet get from a seated position to a crawl. Noticing the movement of others around her more and more at this age, she became frustrated whenever she could not reach a toy, or if she wanted to leave the room. Her desire to move seemed to consume her, and she seemed to be in a stage of constant thought.
Coincidentally, I began my yoga practice at the same time. I had taken some yoga classes sporadically prior, but got serious with my practice when I started working with her. Though I considered myself to be in decent shape, at first, the movements and poses in yoga class were very difficult, and watching the more advanced students was somewhat frustrating. How can they do it and I can’t? Even sitting up straight was uncomfortable, and I was forced to engage muscles I desperately needed to engage.
Like the baby, I too desired to move in new ways, and like the baby, I was determined. I continued my practice full speed ahead, attending as many classes as I could, and adding in some home practice.
After several weeks, the baby finally got up on to her hands and knees and back down to seated again. Every day, and anytime she was on the floor, she repeated this motion over and over again until she began to rock back and forth, gaining strength throughout her body. She used her new found strength for balance, as she tried new motions like lifting her arm up from her hands and knees to reach for a toy. For me, movements in class became a little easier, and my tree pose advanced from touching the floor to my calf. And to my surprise, sitting up for 20-30 minutes became relatively comfortable.
As time passed, the baby continued to push herself off the floor and into a crawling position, rocking back and forth until she had the confidence and coordination to try moving her arms and legs. She did this over and over many times during the day, until she slowly began to crawl.
She fell on her face a few times, but she always got up unaffected, and kept moving. She desperately wanted to crawl, to do what she saw others around her doing, and continued working fearlessly towards this goal.
During my practice, I finally moved from doing chaturunga, a yogi pushup, on my knees, to my toes, thanks to the strength I developed from repeating the motion over and over again, throughout vinyasa class.
It was during the class that I did my first pushup on my toes ever, that I realized how much I can, and have learned from watching a baby learn to use her body.
As I learned to use my body in a new way, I took a few lessons from her. Firstly, if you desire a physical ability, you can gain the strength by repeating daily exercises. During these exercises, you will fall, but you must get up and continue. Falling is natural and promotes growth, and strength. Second, balance is acquired and requires the toning and strengthening of multiple muscles, and continuing to reach for your edge will allow for these muscles to develop. And finally, it doesn't matter how silly you look doing something, if you listen to your body and do what feels right, you can accomplish physical tasks you may have thought unattainable.
Since we don’t remember learning to sit, crawl, walk, feed ourselves, or many other physical functions, we often don’t realize how capable our bodies really are of adapting and quickly growing stronger. We were all once babies who developed the muscles necessary to walk in about a year, and as long as the desire is there, we must remember our bodies are capable of amazing feats. As I see it, if it took me a year to walk, I surely can do an arm balance in a year, or three.