A few months ago, I joked in the marketing for a Mommy & Baby Yoga class that “the babies are already experts.” I was struck just the other day by how true the statement is: I was watching her try to lift a shampoo bottle that was too heavy out of a basket. I watched her try and fail ten times over. She’d attempt to grab the top of the bottle, her uncoordinated fingers fumbling, eventually finding a good grip, just to have it drop out of her hands because she didn’t quite have the leverage to lift it more than a couple of inches. Completely unfazed by the experience, she’d start again. She never successfully lifted the bottle out, she eventually just moved on to something else. I saw her try the same thing the next day.
I know it’s a mundane experience, but it brought up so much for me.
First, there was no self-judgment around her inability to complete the task, no shame, or frustration, just pure determination to lift the shampoo bottle. She is free of the inhibitions and social programing that are so deeply ingrained in me as an adult. I use the internal focus of my yoga practice to look beneath these layers, and here I have a nine-month-old showing me exactly what it looks like to practice observation without judgement.
Second, I so badly wanted to lift the bottle out of the basket for her, so as to not watch her struggle and to give her what I believed she wanted. It turns out that she wasn’t all that attached to getting the bottle after all. She was perfectly content to try something over and over again without “achieving” an end goal. How many times have we seen the trite (but true) yoga meme that “It’s not about touching your toes, it’s what you learn on the way down?”
And finally, it reminded me of how certain postures just won’t show up in my body until the day they suddenly do. It doesn’t help one bit to avoid the posture, lament over it, or force it. I can refine my alignment and work on other poses or exercises that will better prepare my body for the posture, but ultimately it comes down to just trying over and over and over again, until one day I am able to move in that way. I have no doubt that my daughter will be able to lift that shampoo bottle one day; in the meantime, all she needs to do is keep trying.
Years of experiences and interactions start to build up a person’s Ahankara (aka – ego or identity), and Tantric yoga philosophy tells us that we practice in order to dissolve our Ahankara and find bliss. As a practitioner of Pranakriya Yoga, my yoga practice is where I practice being present, peeling back layers of emotional armor that experiences have formed, to come back to my true self – uninhibited and free of the ideas of who I should be and how I should feel. This is a lifetime’s worth of challenging work and, here, God has gifted me with a little, drooling, babbling guru of a baby who already knows how to do so much of what I am seeking. The humor and irony of that does not escape me.