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Barefoot in Yoga, and Better for It

Barefoot in Yoga, and Better for It

Speaking the language of yoga was beneficial for everyone in my family.

I like my Nikes. I like my kettlebell. I like my sweatband, child of the ’80s that I am. I especially like my medicine ball. I do cardio, weight training, and high intensity interval training. I also have six kids, so when I do have time to go to the gym, I only sign up for very sweaty, very intense workouts. But then came a week with a weird schedule of randomly timed appointments and early school dismissals. I wasn’t able to fit in my usual classes—but I could make it to a yoga class. I had never tried yoga before.

When I showed up and saw I was the only one wearing sneakers, I felt like a fish out of water. But I do like new experiences, so I removed my socks and stuffed them deep into my Nikes. I found a studio mat and took my place. I did the best I could, sometimes acing the pose, sometimes struggling through the pose, very often getting my rights and lefts mixed up until I realized I was supposed to mirror the instructor.

By the end of the class, I liked yoga, but I was absolutely, totally, positively in love with the yoga language. It was a revelation—this incredibly validating and encouraging talk is soothing and positive.

In my life, with kids who range in age from 4-23 and a husband, my interactions consist of me telling others what to do or others telling me what to do.

“Fill out the forms and sign by the X.”

“Pick up your pajamas from the bathroom floor. If they need to be washed, put them in the hamper. If not, put them on your pillow.”

“Pick up my dry cleaning. Please.”

“Add cottage cheese to the list.”

Even my regular workout sounds like orders: “Sit ups. Starting at one, two, three. Go!”

Everything is instructions and facts, black and white, statements and requests. But yoga talk is a murmuring brook of suggestions.

“Perhaps you would like to join us in downward dog.”

“Pedal your legs if that feels good to you.”

“You’re welcome to join us in plank.”

Of course, I appreciated the other parts of yoga—the reminder to unclench my jaw and stay present in the moment. The idea of “coming to stillness” for even 2 minutes during my busy day made me feel tethered to the calm feeling I had captured in class. But more than the mindfulness and the grounded feeling yoga gave me, its language appealed to my inner being (which apparently wants to be spoken to in a gentle voice).

After that class, I was easier on myself. “If it feels like the right thing to do, turn on the radio. But if you think checking the news is going to up your stress level, feel free to keep the radio turned off.”

And I was easier on others. That night, when I told my 5-year-old to brush his teeth, I peppered our conversation with terms of endearment.

“Get up on the stepstool, honey, and tell me if you want the Paw Patrol Bubble Yum Toothpaste or the Minion Mint?”

And to my daughter: “Hey, princess, remember to put your empty lunch containers in the sink, sweetie.”

With my older kids, my kids-in-law, and my husband, I sprinkled on the sweetness with a light touch, so as not to make them think an alien had somehow taken over my brain. Just a little “honey” tacked on to the beginning or end was a gentle reminder that my suggestions and instructions are coming from a place of love.

As I enjoined my family to do this or that in yoga speak more often, they actually started to listen.

“You might want to take the trash out as you’re leaving,” I said with a smile—and bit my lip to keep myself from adding a snarky “before our kitchen starts smelling like a landfill!”

“What do you think about finally getting rid of the old car seat, so the garage looks less crowded?”

“I wonder if your morning might go easier for you if you packed your Color War shirt in your backpack tonight. How does that sound to you?”

It’s going to take me some time and patience to master camel pose, but I will definitely be going to a yoga again. Yes, it’s good for my core, but more importantly, it’s good for my family. 

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