Mother and daughter doing yoga together on floor

I have always loved yoga. It helps me slow down, find focus, calm my racing thoughts, and connect back to my body. It’s an outlet I can turn to easily to complete the stress cycle, help myself move through stuck emotions, and ultimately experience some semblance of peace while parenting in a world that simply moves too quickly.

Admittedly, I am a bit type A, and I have likely passed some of these tendencies on to my daughter. Knowing how much yoga helps me, I was desperate to encourage her discover this fantastic outlet for frenetic energy. I tried engaging her in yoga on many occasions only to be met with resistance or total indifference. I figured I must not be doing it right. Maybe if I mastered teaching yoga to other kids, I thought, I would uncover the right approach for engaging her.

True to my overachieving self, I signed up for a kids yoga training course to test my theory. The course was quick, quirky, and fun. “I totally have this in the bag,” I thought while crab walking around a room trying to collect as many Beanie Babies on top of my belly as possible.

I learned fun names for poses, how to incorporate games, and how to lead a magic-carpet-inspired meditation. I told the course facilitator I wanted to give teaching a go, and she agreed to notify me of opportunities. I soon received an invitation to sub in an extended-day after-school program for first graders at a local school.

I arrived feeling prepared and excited to teach the forest-themed yoga sequence I had spent a lot of time planning. A teacher met me in the school lobby and informed me I would be teaching a class of 30 kids in an all-purpose PE room. As I laid out the little yoga mats, I noticed the room was cluttered with sports gear and had an overall hectic energy to it.

The children bounded in, and in her gruff Boston accent their teacher gave them a firm reminder of the rules. She led a little boy to the front and sat him down right next to me. “This is John. Keep a close eye on him.” she said, and left. I began the class with a creeping realization that it might not go quite the way I planned.

“OK everyone,” I said. “Today we are going to go on a yoga adventure through the forest. Let’s see what animals we find along the way. Begin by sitting criss-cross applesauce, and let’s take some bumble bee breaths.” 

Right away, John crawled into my lap without warning. While I was explaining body boundaries to him, a girl loudly proclaimed that she needed to use the restroom. As soon as I granted permission, six other hands shot up. “We need to go, too.” Then, more hands. “We need to go fill our water bottles.”

“Um, OK, just be quick,” I stammered. 

I was getting anxious. We were now running behind, and I only had about half the group present. A few kids languidly followed along while I wondered how long it was reasonable for first graders to use the bathroom. Then a group of girls abruptly left the mats and got on stationary bikes. Others began playing dodgeball. Everything snowballed from there. 

My first class was a total flop.

At the time, I thought it was because I had lost control, but I later realized my mistake was assuming I had control in the first place. In my blind desperation to follow the plan, I had missed an opportunity to have fun and get creative. I was trying to control all the variables, which is impossible when children are involved.

Had I gone with the flow and improvised the class to meet the needs and energy levels of the kids, it likely would have gone more smoothly. And with my own daughter? Well, I had to adapt there, too. Despite all my attempts, yoga is not her thing. Her energy requires a different kind of outlet. 

After trying many different activities, we discovered that her preferred way to channel energy is through swimming. She loves being around water and can spend all day in a pool. She is now a proud member of her local swim team. 

Parenting is never linear. It requires constant pivoting and re-calibration. There is a steep learning curve, and we need to give ourselves time and grace while we figure things out. Whether in parenting or in yoga, sometimes the best thing we can do in the moment is to let go of expectations and see where the flow takes us.

Maria Zolotarev
Originally from Moscow, Maria has lived in the Boston area since grade school. She attended Boston Latin, where she met her husband, and then graduated from Northeastern University. Maria now lives in the vibrant neighborhood of Roslindale with her husband and two kids (born in 2015 and 2020). She works as clinical pharmacist by day and runs the Roslindale Littles Facebook group in her free time. Prompted by the pandemic, she dove headfirst into finding her “Unicorn Space” outside of working and momming. She rediscovered her love of writing and one day she hopes to publish a children’s book that showcases her family's culture. Most days you can find her chasing her super active kids around the garden while she listens to a never ending TBR list of audiobooks. Likes: tea, cats, yoga, hiking, her Peloton, exploring, reading, gardening and meeting new people. :)

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