We “grownups” can all relate—our world has morphed into one filled with technology, constant communication, and mountains of virtual commitments foreign to us just a few decades ago. Our brains are overwhelmed with constant input and stimulation. We need—so desperately—to find ways to stop the traffic, slow down this hectic pace and embrace a moment here or there of nothingness—calm for our bodies and minds. This high speed environment is no stranger to our children. Even the youngest of them experience this energetic chaos vicariously through our actions and moods—absorbing the commotion and tension of agendas that simply weren’t part of our parents’ world. And, for certain, our school-age children face not only greatly increased pressures at school, but also the pressure to keep up with the social demands of social networks while their brains are being seduced, distracted and hypnotized by the fast-paced action of video games and texting. In short, we, as a humanity, are migrating farther and farther away from “self” and farther and farther away from union with the “present moment.”
As the hectic nature of our lives has been increasing, yoga has become more popular in this county than ever before. According to a 2012 Yoga Journal study, “20.4 million Americans practice yoga, compared to 15.8 million from the previous 2008 study*, an increase of 29 percent. In addition, practitioners spend $10.3 billion a year on yoga classes and products, including equipment, clothing, vacations, and media. The previous estimate from the 2008 study was $5.7 billion*.” (*Study conducted by Harris Interactive Service Bureau.). Yoga isn’t a fad, it’s an antidote—an antidote to all this chaos, and our children can benefit as well—here’s why. Yoga is not just breathing, stretching and twisting. Yes, we stretch and twist in yoga, and in children’s yoga classes, we breathe, stretch and twist too. We also make animal noises, jump like frogs, and roar like lions. We pretend to be still tall mountains, strong trees, and colorful rainbows. We go on adventures, play games, laugh and share. What is more, woven into every yoga classes of every type, and for all ages, is an invitation and opportunity to find the present moment—a slice of existence that just is. A moment, or maybe two or three if lucky, in which the chaos—the agendas, obligations, and distraction—drift away leaving us with just the deepest place of “self’ that we can find, and a connection to the most peaceful sense of nothingness. This invitation comes when we close our eyes and focus on nothing but breathing into balloons in our belly. This invitation comes when we try to balance in tree pose—placing as much focus as we can on our breath and a Drishti (something to focus on to enhance concentration and ease distraction—like a spot on the floor or an object a few feet away). It comes when we relax at the end of class in savasana and practice appreciation for quiet stillness.
As we send our kids off to school and into life we want to make sure they have all the tools needed to navigate the potentially competitive, challenging and fast-paced life ahead of them. How I wish my childhood toolbox of math, science, spelling, and history had included a “stop sign” for all the traffic and noise.
A little “nothing” has so much value—it’s priceless