My daughter knows a lot about yoga, admittedly more than most 2½-year-olds. When I opened the doors to my yoga studio the day she turned 19 months old, I knew I would be changing her future, creating a life where she would never remember a time that yoga wasn’t a part of her world.
I knew from that day on she would learn from the teachers, the students, and from myself. What I didn’t realize was that in return, as I grew my practice and she grew hers, she would remind me of some of the most simple, yet important lessons to take along with me.
1. It’s okay to be proud.
There's no missing a yoga practice with my daughter, because whenever she prepares for her practice she proudly announces, “Watch me, I do my yoga.” She waits until she has an audience: whether that is her big brother, a houseguest, the dog, or myself, then proudly displays her newest pose.
She isn’t doing it for fame, fortune, or Instagram followers; she does it because she is proud in the purest sense of the word.
With the growing community of social media profiles devoted to the most challenging of asanas, scrutiny continues to surround the idea that yoga as an individual practice shouldn’t be glorified by seemingly unattainable postures and “look at me” photos.
A toddler yogi, it turns out, would tell you it’s okay to be proud of your amazing accomplishment and your hard work. If you have been working hard to advance your practice for 10 days, 10 months, or 10 years, feel free to share it with someone—whether that’s the whole world or just the dog.
2. Yoga doesn’t care what you wear.
As I look into the laundry room and sigh deeply because I realize all of my yoga clothes are dirty, my daughter prepares for her own practice in what varies between one of many tutus, ruffled bathing suits, and of course, the latest in toddler pajamas.
She freely does yoga in whatever is most comfortable for her at any given time. She reminds me on a daily basis that it doesn’t actually matter what I wear when I practice, as long as I’m comfortable.
Whether I'm decked head to toe in the trendiest and cutest color-coordinated yoga specialty gear, or rocking my slightly uneven sweatpants from ten years ago that I hemmed myself and am sure are no longer their original color, I can still practice yoga.
3. Being present is easy, especially if you’re having fun.
My greatest struggle has been practicing in the present moment. I have a hard time not mentally planning for dinner, the staff meetings next week, the deadlines that are tomorrow, the trash day I missed, or any combination of those life stressors, but not my daughter.
If you ever get the chance to watch a toddler practice yoga, take it. There is nothing going on in their world except exactly what they're doing at that very moment. When she does her Tree Pose, she is 100 percent invested in that pose, and she’s having fun.
Her practice involves a lot of laughter and smiles, and it’s nearly impossible to not be present when you’re smiling and making your practice fun. I’m serious—try making an effort to smile the next time you practice, and see what a difference it makes.
4. There is no “have to” in yoga.
When my child is done and ready to move on, she does just that; she doesn’t force herself to practice longer than she needs to or wants to. She never apologizes for making the decision to continue on with her day. She practices entirely according to her own needs.
I tend to obligate myself to some version of “have to” in my yoga practice. I “have to” finish the Sun Salutations or I “have to” continue my vinyasa, even when I’d really rather take a Child’s Pose. Then of course, if I do take that Child’s Pose, I feel the need to explain to my teacher and everyone else in class why I did.
My toddler serves as the greatest reminder that your yoga practice is uniquely your own, and there is nothing you “have to” do.
Image Credit: Lisa Kelly