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What I Learned From Toddler Yoga Class

Attending toddler yoga reminds me that the best I can do as a mother is to let Emma find her own way and make her own mistakes.
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This past fall, my daughter Emma and I began attending toddler yoga class together.

The class was pretty much what I expected. The moms sang a cute song with "OM" in the chorus. We barked as we did our Downward Dogs and alternated between mooing and meowing during Cat-Cow. Emma pushed me off the mat and tried to imitate the poses. The teacher encouraged the moms to relax despite the chaos of class. I laid quietly during Savasana while Emma ran around the room, screaming and stealing water bottles from other kids.

I have practiced yoga for over 10 years now. Sometimes I get to class every week and sometimes months go by without me being on my mat. I practiced, with modifications, throughout my entire pregnancy with Emma. Whenever I make it to class, I feel immeasurably grateful. My teachers remind me to breathe. They help me stay present in the moment, even if that peace only lasts for the 60 minutes I am on the mat. Yoga has made me stronger and more flexible. The practice will always be a part of my life, and my wish is that Emma will benefit from yoga in the same way that I have over the years.

I want my daughter to feel strong and beautiful and to move her body in ways that make her happy. I hope she learns to listen to her breath, follow its lead and remain openhearted and flexible, both physically and emotionally. I wish for her to stand tall and proud, with her shoulders back and chest out. I want Emma to work up a sweat and to learn that she is capable of more than she thinks. I wish for her to find balance in her body and her life. I hope that one day, she feels how a room can be so deeply filled with love from strangers, moving through poses together. These are some of the gifts that I have received from yoga that I wish to pass along to Emma.

I want Emma to know the word "namaste." Literally translated, it means, "I bow to you." Over the years, I have heard another interpretation that I have always loved: "the light in me honors the light in you." I hope Emma will acknowledge not only the light in others, but also the light in herself. Yoga has shown me how to do this.

In the last 10 years, my best lesson from yoga has been that of surrender. My teachers often speak of letting go not only by sinking into my mat, but also into the poses. They remind me to surrender willingly. This lesson is a hard one, but there is no better way for me to practice it than in being a mom.

As Emma grows older, I am becoming more aware of how much she is her own individual person. Every day, I have to let go a bit more: to allow her to go down the playground slide alone, to choose what she wants to eat, to pick out her own clothes and to decide which toys she wants to bring on our outings. My job as a parent is not to tell her what to like, but rather to expose her to this beautiful world and let her feel the pull of what she loves.

Attending toddler yoga reminds me that the best I can do as a mother is to let Emma find her own way and make her own mistakes. When she did somersaults instead of Downward Dogs in class, I applauded her. Perhaps she will prefer gymnastics rather than yoga. This is not up to me.

Maybe she is too young to take it all in, I thought for a moment, as Emma ran around yelling during class. However, when I closed my eyes during Savasana, in my mind I could see her in a Downward Dog, feeling strong, grounded and ready to take on the world. And I could see myself in the corner of the room, watching her proudly and allowing her to just be.

At the end of toddler yoga, when we say "namaste," I whisper my favorite translation into Emma's small ear: "the light in me honors the light in you." I do this by letting go a little everyday so that she can find her own path. I return to my mat, whenever I can get there, to continue my own journey towards surrender.

An earlier, shorter version of this post previously appeared on Becky's personal blog and was featured by BlogHer.