Sometimes I find trips to my hometown mentally exhausting: the schedule is random, family members start asking the “when are you coming home for good” questions (answer: I already am home. I don’t live here anymore), trying to squeeze in visits with every family member and close friend, and accepting all the changes that have happened since the last visit. This was one of those times and I felt pretty overwhelmed by the end of the day and felt it was the perfect opportunity to practice some yoga.
I started out with some basic back bends to start opening up my heart to all the emotions I’d been feeling during the day. As I breathed through the poses, my nephew, Nutmeg, came running through the hallway and told me he wanted to do yoga too. He was so enthusiastic, and I thought nothing could compliment my intention more than to have such an innocent and carefree love practicing with me.
He had tons of energy, so I went to a wall and laid down in viparita karani, legs up the wall pose, to begin. I told him to stretch his legs as far as he could and you could see his little body working and feel the energy through his legs. From there we ran through some chaturangas and he copied my movements by dropping to his knees for the push-up and springing into headstand preps instead of down dog. It was interesting to watch him watching me and then making the poses his own based on what he could do.
When I felt stable, I moved into vasisthasana, an arm balance to strengthen the shoulders and core. I like it because when you find the right balance points you feel completely weightless and content. When I felt lifted, I signaled for him to try as well. We weren’t on the same level there, and he surprised me by using my leg as a stair and balancing on my side body instead of doing it beside me. Ironically, the added weight made my arm less in this pose because I was consciously lifting my oblique muscle to support him. I told him to raise his arm and when he did I felt his little muscles working for balance as well and I tried to channel that energy into the pose.
I absolutely love practicing backbends so I started to prep for camel pose, or Ustrasana. I like this one not only because it stretches the whole front of the body, but also because the sensation of lifting the heart over the head has a tendency to bring up lots of emotions, some as uncomfortable as the pose itself. These rushes of sensation, both physical and mental, make camel pose a practice of learning to calm down when things feel overwhelming, something I need to work on both on and off the mat. In The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment, Eckhart Tolle writes, “As soon as you honor the present moment, all unhappiness and struggle dissolve, and life begins to flow with joy and ease. When you act out the present-moment awareness, whatever you do becomes imbued with a sense of quality, care, and love – even the most simple action.” This really hits home when trying to keep your mind from wandering in camel pose, and was exemplified with Nutmeg also bending on top of me. With him there, my emotions shifted to him and I felt an overwhelming rush of love for the trust he had in me by “playing yogis.” These loving thoughts and emotions are what I strive to feel whenever difficult things happen and I felt so thankful for the moment we were sharing, so much so that breathing in the pose felt super euphoric and when we came out of it I couldn’t stop smiling.
We finished in sukhasana, a simple cross-legged position meant to restore and revitalize the body with new energy. The translation is “easy pose” but after s stressful day or even an exhausting practice it can be anything but easy. Poses aren’t just about the manipulation of your body and breath but also the calming of your mind and staying connected to the present moment. When I asked nutmeg to cross his legs and close his eyes, I thought it would be impossible. After all, he’s only two years old and he was all energized from the acrobatics we were playing. Much to my surprise, he settled in right away and closed his eyes easily. Kids are always running from one moment to the next, but it isn’t the same anticipation as I do when I’m racing the clock or rushing somewhere. They do what they want when they feel it’s time and don’t take no for an answer. Watching him sitting with his eyes closed in a meditative posture was the perfect way to seal our practice. It requires a simple trust in both the self and the environment and reminded me of the importance of maintaining a childlike innocence in everyday life. He’s a great little yogi.
“The things that matter most in our lives are not fantastic or grand. They are the moments when we touch one another.” ~ Jack Kornfield