Mother as First Guru

I had a breakthrough moment with our daughter that I’m eager to share.

At certain skills, I’m a perpetual beginner. Starting and starting again, back to square one, even though I’d like to build a skill, a discipline, a practice. I’ve been a beginner-level yogi since…oh… 2004. I first visited Kripalu yoga retreat in 2009 and did an excellent program called “Yoga and Kayaking.” We’d set off at 5am on the glassy waters of a lake in the Berkshires, kayak to the edge of the forest, park our kayaks, and practice yoga in the forest. This was an awesome experience.

I’m happy to say I’ve gotten back into yoga since a forced hiatus this summer/fall, when I tore both my ACL and meniscus in my knee.

I had the privilege of hearing Ina May Gaskin speak at the Museum of Motherhood this past March. Ina May is a midwife and activist who inspired a movement to make midwifery accessible to the American masses. Museum of Motherhood is a special space on the upper east side where women collaborate to form enlightened experiences surrounding all aspects of motherhood. Women, it is an amazing place and I highly recommend a visit. It was here that I found our two-year-old daughter her very own, pint-sized yoga mat. Actually, Adela had been exposed to yoga since she was an infant.

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A valuable baby gift we’d received was a beautiful and useful book called Itsy Bitsy Yoga: Poses to Help Your Baby Sleep Longer, Digest Better, and Grow Stronger. This is a great book and a great gift! We’re still using some of the moves and principles (like “divine drops”) almost three years later.

My latest discovery has been key to a daily practice. It’s a web site called YogaGlo. For $18/month you get unlimited classes over video ~ and they’re top quality. You can sort by level, style, teacher, and duration. This lets me squeeze a 20-minute yoga sequence in when I’m pressed for time, or attempt a 60-minute class when possible. Adela has been pretty good at following along with me on her yoga mat. But lately her attention and patience have been limited (she’s just shy of three years old). She’ll start out in standing poses with me, do a few downard facing dogs, then climb on me, then pull my hair, then get ornery and demanding. Lately I’ve been able to do about 10 minutes of yoga before the antics start and my practice is cut short.

One recent morning, she was discouraged by the difficulty of the class I’d chosen. “I can’t do it,” she said. “You’re doing great,” I said. “I’m not as good as you are,” she said sadly. And she said it twice.

I heard her. My heart heard her. My memory heard her. I was reminded of the time I tried to go running with my husband. He was just faster and it came easier to him and I felt inadequate and insecure and irritable. (I’d been jogging decently on my own, but our bodies and paces are mismatched and it’s nobody’s fault.) (I prefer to run solo; I have no desire or ability to carry on conversation while running ~ and that same nagging inferiority complex bubbles up.)

Instead of stubbornly putting my needs first, I remembered I’d been saving Yoga Kit for Kids in the closet for a rainy day. SHE LOVED IT! I fanned out the flash cards, each showing a child doing a yoga pose with a cute name assigned to it (Flower, Bug, Frog, Peacock, Waterfall, and more), and asked her to pick a random card. Then we’d perfect the pose together, on our individual mats. I thought we’d do 10 cards, but we ended up doing all 25! She held her concentration for half an hour. We both felt great when it was done. Our plan is to keep practicing and put on a yoga demonstration for daddy when we’re ready. Bug and Turtle poses are hard and will require more practice!

This is where I reflect on a useful concept called the zone of proximal development—the sweet spot where a task is neither so easy it bores the learner, nor so difficult that achievement is impossible. Yoga Kit for Kids, plus my willingness to tune in, pay attention, and spend quality time teaching and learning with my daughter, gave me the wonderful feeling of being in the sweet spot, in the zone.

It’s so rewarding when you put down the phone, computer, or other distraction and just connect with your kid over something they’re interested in. It’s an accomplishment to receive and act on their signals.

It’s hard to put a name to the combination of love and magic and responsibilities fulfilled when a good connection is felt by parent and child. But you know it when it happens and it’s worth sharing. I would love to hear about times when other parents felt synchronicity with their kids. What was the setting and were there any props or tools that facilitated learning on both your parts?

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About MommyTheorist

Editor, writer, photographer, and new mom
This entry was posted in Bliss, blog, Family, Health, New York, Parenting, Psychology, Relationships and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Mother as First Guru

  1. drakejamie says:

    My girls and I share a love of music and whether we are singing or dancing together alone at home I feel like we are connecting in a very special way. I also taught both my girls to speak sign language from a very early age and when they use it now that they are 3 and 4 without me initiating it, it’s like we have our own secret code that not many around us can crack. This is the kind of magic I believe in.

  2. Swami Gurupremananda says:

    Hi mommy theorist – I was doing a search for my book- Mother as First Guru and was surprised to find a photo of the cover on your blog page. I guess I am surprised because I can’t see any direct reference to the book- only the piccie. Nice to see it still around, do you have a copy? It will be back in print soon in a new format.

    • Oh, amazing book cover. Please indicate an artist credit and if your book is in print, a link to that — I’d very much like to credit the source if the image as well as explore your book. Thank you!

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