One of the best parts about writing this blog is having the opportunity to connect with other yoga practitioners who are navigating this life with children.
I am so humbled and excited to share this interview with an accomplished and very thought provoking New York yoga teacher, J. Brown. I've followed J. for many years via his blog, and now his Yoga Talks podcast conversations. He delves right into the pressing issues around what yoga has become in the West and shares insights into yoga "culture" as well as personal and raw experiences of this practice.
It is a real honour to have J. on the blog speaking so candidly sharing his experiences as a yoga dad.
Sandra: What is your best practice for managing the chaos that comes with children and the impact it has on you and your partner?
J: I think the most important thing my yoga practice has done for me as a husband and parent is to help cultivate space enough in my head that I can choose a response to a situation rather than just reacting. I always use the example of a tree pose. I have this thing about making everyone practice smiling or chuckling when they fall over, even if they have to fake it. The idea is that there is the initial reaction, maybe an annoyance or frustration. But that is not the only thing that happens. Then, there is also a chosen response.
I am utterly amazed at how my six year-old daughter can so effectively rattle me, even at such a young age. I have spent many years developing equanimity in myself and a resilience to outside influences that might disrupt my awareness and behavior. That she has such an uncanny ability to bypass my well constructed firewall is striking. Recently, on a particularly challenging day, I actually wanted to hit her. I didn't do it, but I genuinely wanted to and had to exert considerable effort to suppress the impulse. Now I have never wanted to hit another person in my life, much less my beloved daughter. I must admit, it freaked me out a bit. Especially because, when she saw that she had successfully pushed me completely outside of myself, she smiled in delight, as though she had succeeded in her mission.
I know what my dad would have done. He would have grabbed a magazine, rolled it up, and given me a little whack. He never beat or hurt me but he ruled by fear in the house. When I was confronted with the same situation, I am happy to say that I've had enough space to make a choice. In this way, my yoga allows me to be the dad I want to be.
The same holds true with my wife. Being able to hold space for her, and myself, when it feels like the train is running off the rails is what saves our marriage and keeps us in love.
What is your advice for a new parent?
I tend not to give parenting advice. But someone said something to me just before the birth of our first child that proved to be prophesy. I suppose it’s really specific to that first year but… SLEEP WHEN THE BABY SLEEPS. You want to try and get stuff done but its best just to sleep.
Is there anything else you would like to add about parenting or being a parent as it relates to your knowledge and experience of yoga
Kindness. Nurturing intimacy and kindness. Its what I need in my practice and its what our children need most.
J. Brown is a yoga teacher, writer, podcaster, and founder of Abhyasa Yoga Center in Brooklyn, NY. Read, listen, watch, and find out more at www.jbrownyoga.com