In a perfect world there would be unlimited time to absorb oneself in extended yoga and meditation sessions. In a child’s world, playing with the adults they love, builds trust and secure attachment.
Yogic lessons of equanimity, focus, stability, resilience, perseverance, union, connection and balance translate well into the language of play and in an ideal world adults would carry the benefits of yoga practice into playtime with children. Attunement means being or bringing into harmony; a feeling of being “at one” with another being.
When that synchronicity happens through play, it builds a healthy foundation for interpersonal relationships. Our resistance to pure play with our own children can be compared to our resistance to being present in yoga.
I hear from people who don’t like yoga that “yoga is boring,” and I hear from parents that, “making the trucks go brrrrr and changing the doll’s clothes doesn’t hold a candle next to watching the Lakers.”
Life sometimes feels like an infinitely long list of things to do and resentment can arise when we are asked to stop rushing and connect.
There has always been and will always be wood to chop and water to carry (or the equivalent), which debunks any justification that we have too many important tasks to complete before appreciating the simplicity of being present with ourselves and with others.
Structured play is directive. It has rules to follow and is recommended when playing with a highly active or hyperactive child who has difficulty paying attention.
Team sports are more structured than playing house or playing school. Board games are more structured than sand play.
Just like the space of our yoga mat provides the container for our physical body, the cardboard square of a board game focuses the players.
In addition to these spatial boundaries, energetic boundaries contribute to a meaningful experience. Structured play teaches which behaviors push friends away and which attract playmates.
In yoga we restrain the fluctuations of the mind to cultivate a steady state. In play we restrain meanness to cultivate joyful connections, sportsmanship and community.
Playing by the rules develops character, mastery and increases the ability to tolerate frustration. The reward of self-efficacy is tainted when a child wonders whether they would have been able to win legitimately. Adults can observe a child’s response to obstacles when playing structured games together.
The act of playing a game together becomes a meditation in peaceful co-existence. Players can agree to disagree, challenge and compete within a milieu of civility.
How long can family members tolerate a board game without disintegrating into squabbles?
No matter the depths of the conflicts within a family system, playing a game together can provide a sanctuary if everyone agrees to temporarily set other problems or issues aside.
A board game is a great equalizer in that younger siblings have an equal chance to win. Older siblings and parents may roll a low number on the dice or slide down the ladder due to sheer bad luck.
The family is together for an extended period of time without nagging, bossing, whining, threatening. If a family has problems with power struggles, angry outbursts or demeaning language, deciding to be peaceful during structured play creates an alternative experience and an exception to the problem.
They may find themselves being silent and they may notice a deep, tender connection surface.
When we practice yoga at home alone moments of discovery can surprise us.
Leave room for magical discovery when you introduce a child to a new toy, a funny hat, clay and blocks. It may be obvious to us that a hula hoop twirls around the waist yet a child may prefer to lay it on the lawn and jump in and out of the circle.
Our habitual way of handling a toy may inhibit a child’s imagination. There are few things as extraordinary as the imagination of a child.
Witnessing their uniqueness, understanding their metaphors reflects to them that they are present, they are seen and heard.
Just as you make the commitment to turn off the cell phone to practice or set it aside when meeting with friends, you can make the same effort to value time with a child.
When pressured to get up and do your adult tasks, breathe and reflect on whether the task can wait until this cherished connection finds its own closure.
When people feel honored, it’s noticeable in their facial expression and eye contact. Conversations become more interactive… dialogue rather than monologue. Even quiet children begin opening up.
In yoga class, the act of selecting props and replacing them neatly adds to the aesthetic of the studio. Participating in the clean-up process with your child models valuable organizational skills.
Cleaning up together also helps contain the anxiety about the pending separation or transition.
If the elements of yoga practice including posture and meditation expose raw emotional states such as loss, sadness, or an existential feeling of aloneness, we can learn to breathe through it often inspiring transformational shifts.
If worrisome metaphors arise during a child’s playtime with you, be reflective about what your child is telling you. The connection can highlight the fact that soon they will separate from you and that may feel unbearable.
About the author
Julie Carmen, MA, LMFT, ERYT-500 is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist who uses a Narrative Post Modern approach when working with children and families.
Julie is also a Certified Yoga Therapist. Her upcoming July 2012 Costa Rica Retreat THE ARTIST IN YOU provides CE hours for healthcare professionals and Yoga Alliance teachers.
Visit www.theSanctuaryCostaRica.com for more information.
Powered by Facebook Comments