Stretching my patience: can yoga help my parenting?

I recently had an epiphany in yoga class.

Moving through the different poses, willingly stretching and contorting my body, I tried to let stress and negative thoughts temporarily melt away. When I’m able to focus on proper positioning and breathing, I get the most out of the experience.

I often practice in about 95-degree heat, which loosens my muscles and allows me to go further into poses, testing balance and endurance. Teachers calmly urge us to push through resistance to achieve the best form.

We were doing a posture called pigeon, which requires you to bend one leg in front of you—shin parallel to the mat– and slide the other leg straight behind. If you can manage that, the next step is to reach your torso forward and rest your cheek on the floor. It’s not easy, but if I can get there it’s an incredible hip opener.

While you’d think my inner dialogue during this pretzel would be profanity-laced, I was surprisingly tranquil and in the moment. I tried to fixate on how each part of my body was positioned, and slowly attempted to stretch deeper into the pose.

Yoga practice on

As I pushed through discomfort, the teacher encouragingly suggested we let go of any tension. It sounds so simple, but unless you really focus on surrendering the strain, you get caught up in the pain. If you can— even just for a few moments– resist the temptation to squeeze and tense your muscles and just give in, you can actually ease into the pose.

If I can get there mentally, and then physically yield, it’s ephemeral euphoria.

After a few brief but glorious moments, a switch went off in my head and I was aware of the pain and had to readjust.

But as I was trying to override the resistance, I discovered a metaphor for parenting. Often at the end of the day, when I’m tired and my boys (ages 8, 10 and 13) are being sassy and my patience level is low, they start pushing my buttons.

I should be the mature adult who sets a better example of how to act. But when they’re simultaneously barking dinner orders at me; avoiding homework; and tossing a football in the family room, knowing full well that’s against house rules….my composure flies out the window.

If I scold them too harshly, I feel crappy. There’s very little satisfaction in telling off your kids. It’s not like standing up for yourself against a boss or friend who’s done you wrong. You don’t feel empowered, you just feel like a heel.

So while reaching my heels to my mat in down dog, I realized I need to take the Zen attitude I bring to yoga into my parenting.

Easier said than done, I know.

yoga on beach key west on

But if I can trick my mind into believing my limbs are not on fire, I certainly can find a way to abandon my ego and avoid the temptation to snap at my kids when tensions are high.

Breathing helps. Yogis often emphasize the importance of deep steady breaths.  Taking a couple of soothing breaths—and maybe even closing my eyes—when the kids are unruly may ward off a mommy meltdown.

If calm talking and breathing doesn’t work, I can always try standing on my head to get their attention.

What do you do to avoid losing it on your kids? Tell me in the comments.

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