alan little’s weblog

yoga with jack

14th May 2004 permanent link

For the first few months of my life as a father I had very little time and energy for yoga practice: a senior yoga teacher warned me when I was an expectant dad that children are great for teaching you to let go of any ego attachment you might have to physical “achievement” in your yoga practice. For the last couple of months I’ve been trying to get back to practicing on a regular basis– but when I get home from work and want to do my practice, Maria has already been looking after the baby all day and needs a break. So, yoga as childcare.

In ashtanga vinyasa yoga, the style I (attempt to) practice, a practice session is supposed to be one continuous meditative flow. Mine is a series of three to four minute meditative flows with pauses in between to play peekaboo, catch the ball etc. (Hey, interval training!). Anything that involves raising the arms overhead becomes a “lift the baby” game. Strengthens the shoulders. Certain things, like attempting handstands, are completely out of the question because of the risk of falling on the baby. Headstand still works ok despite the fact that, when Jack was crawling, he would come and put his fingers in my nose and pull. Babies have sharp fingernails. Now that his practice has advanced to include standing and walking, he just goes round behind and pushes. This is much better because it doesn’t hurt and he’s not strong enough push me over. Yet. Backbends are ok, you just have to come down carefully in case anyone has crawled underneath without you noticing. A ten kilo baby is not heavy enough to have much effect on my stiff right hip (old climbing injury) when used as a weight on the knee in baddha konasana.

There is a certain breed of purist/puritan yoga practitioner who disapproves of this sort of thing. I remember a course where the teacher’s six year old son, and a friend of mine’s nine year old, would come and play in the practice room while classes were going on – mostly imitating what the yoga students were doing and/or laughing at them. I thought this was great; some people really disliked it. To such people I say: babies and small children are part of life and a lot more important than whether you can get your toe up your ass, get used to it.

Last night Jack fell asleep on my lap while I was sitting in bharadvajasana, a position in which you sit with one leg folded back and the other in half lotus position. You’re then supposed to twist round, grab the lotus foot from the back with one hand and put the other under the knee. This is tricky when you have an inert baby slumped over the leg that is in lotus. As is getting out of the position without waking the baby up in order to carry him to bed.

The Bharadvajasana picture isn’t of me – I don’t have that many tattoos (in fact I don’t have any) and rarely paint my fingernails blue. The blue fingernail guy with the tattoos is, however, doing the best bharadvajasana I was able to find a picture of on the web. (The heel could perhaps be in a little more towards the navel). In general, I discovered while searching for illustrations for these comments that the web is full of really bad pictures of yoga asanas. Hmm. It might not be the world’s most pressing problem, but it’s one that I could conceivably do something about …

related entries: Yoga

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