How we practice with our son
Our yoga practice is a very important part of our lives, perhaps even the most important. So it wasn't long after Kiran's birth that Melanie and I rolled out our mats to practice as a family of three. We carefully created a comfortable space for our son and placed it right between our mats.
And there he was, lying between us and seeming quite entertained. He looked with his beaming eyes at the two of us. Then we started to chant the mantra and chime into our breath. Our son seemed fascinated by each inhalation and exhalation, the raising and lowering of arms and legs and decided to stretch himself as he giggles. He extended his arms wide and really enjoyed it. He turned from side to side, reached into the air and then curled up into a little ball.
While our son certainly doesn't know anything about yoga philosophy or postures as such, he somehow understands the essence of what is happening: Mom and Dad are moving and breathing and they are enjoying it. So he does the same: he moves and he enjoys his practice.
What is yoga, anyway?
What our son was able to pick up immediately and naturally took us parents years to implement for ourselves:
Yoga is at least three thousand years old. Not the techniques, but the principle behind everything that we do when we practice. It's the concept of experiencing our true nature.
To compare: Medicine has also been around for thousands of years. The methods of how we heal people have changed and developed over time.
In the same way, yoga techniques began three thousand years ago with rituals and retreats from daily life to focus on philosophy. Soon after the exercises of meditation and breath were added as tools.
Why is yoga all about feeling good
Tantric philosophy introduced a new perspective to what it means to be human. Everything and everyone is interconnected. If we wish to experience our true nature, it must be with a clear mind. In order to achieve this, physical balance is a fundamental first step. As a result, the physical practice of yoga became more and more present.
The only purpose of the practice is to find physical and mental balance. Or, in a nutshell, to just feel good. We embrace our entire physical body through stretching, contraction and mindful movement. We embrace where we are in the moment and let go of unnecessary tension. We breathe deeply and enjoy the soothing sensation of sweating.
What our son understands about this and what we can learn from him
We adults take the perspective of always wanting to improve our practice - to be more flexible, stronger or healthier. Our son doesn't try to do this. Rather, he immerses himself in the essence of yoga. He is present and enjoys exploring the capabilities of his little body.
So the next time you are given a new asana, don't lose sight of the purpose of practicing. Yoga isn't about mastering a pose, but enjoying the process of exploration.
Enjoy your practice!