The following entry is written by our teacher and friend, Michelle Cohen. It is the first time she writes publicly about this topic and hopes by sharing this vulnerable, yet authentic experience it may help one other person who might be struggling or need support.
Last week, I attended Michelle Brady’s Movers & Preschoolers class with my two boys, ages 4 & 2. With a yoga teacher for a mama, one might expect my boys to be the sweet, quiet ones sitting on their mats, listening intently to the teacher. Let me assure you—it’s the complete opposite. Often, when I am in class with both of my boys, I must be the one practicing the most yoga, reminding myself to breathe, relax, be present and soften while they chase each other around, have utter disregard for instruction, disrupt other children, and start a mini-revolt by inevitably pulling out and playing with every single prop in the entire room. If this sounds like your child too (please say it isn’t just me!) I want you to take heart—you too can come to class and its okay! I understand your trepidation and frustration FULLY. There is room for us all.
I began doing yoga with my oldest son Jonah when he was just 5 weeks at Baby & Me. As a new mom, shell-shocked and exhausted, I needed to return to my tribe and escape the madness, to return to my center, no matter how briefly. Then we moved on to Itsy Bitsy Yoga Tots and then Tykes, until it simply became too challenging for me to practice yoga in a group setting alongside my child. Jonah has sensory processing disorder (SPD), a complex topic that can be difficult to explain and understand, but at its essence it means that the 7 senses that we all use to interpret, understand, and interact with this worldsend faulty, or inexact, signals to his brain making the sensory input much more difficult for him to process, or integrate. SPD lies along a spectrum and looks different in individuals, as well as in the same individual at different times. Children with SPD are often “out-of-sync” and I know from watching Jonah that he has a hard time actually being “in” his body. This SPD and scattered rambunctious energy, coupled with additional motor planning challenges, makes something like a yoga class a much greater challenge for him than his neurotypical peers.
Nevertheless, I gently encourage him to go–even when he doesn’t want to, and yes, he always has a great time. He has regularly attended Sarah’s Littles class on Wednesday afternoons, which is a drop-off class (so it works great for all of us!) And now he’s in yoga camp, to create a stronger foundation of peace and ease so he can learn to go within and get grounded, as he grows more flexible and strong in mind and body.
Throughout the years, I have been in many classes with Jonah and generally he takes on the role of the observer, rather than the doer. As a kids yoga teacher, I have counseled many a parent to say that if it looks like your child isn’t doing anything, never fear—they are still absorbing it even if they are not “performing!” I often had to tell myself the same exact thing. But slowly, over the years, little bits of yoga would show up: a kicky kicky cobra during bath time, a down dog before bed time, a declaration of airplane pose to run from one place to the next.
I’m sharing this long, winding journey all so I can share one singular moment with you– a moment that occurred in Michelle’s Movers & Preschoolers on an ordinary Thursday morning. The class started off rough for me, with two boys climbing all over me, hijacking props, wreaking havoc, but slowly, slowly, my boys got interested and engaged as Michelle patiently and creatively taught. And by savasana they were hooked. Jonah grabbed his own bolster and blanket and made himself a “cozy nest” in which he calmly laid down, closed his eyes and rested. And when it was time to emerge, Michelle closed class with the namaste song, a song I was not actually familiar with. But I looked to my right, and post-savasana, calm and centered Jonah had his hands in front of his heart in prayer position, and sang loud and clear:
My little light bows to your little light, your little light, your little light. My little light bows to your little light….na-mah-stay.
He looked over at me with the sweetest little smile and tears immediately welled up in my eyes. Isn’t that what it’s all about? L-O-V-E.
In that one, beautiful moment, I had the ability to just be present and notice. Notice his growth, and his amazing spirit. Notice my breath and feel compassion for myself and and my son on our journey with its endless highs and lows, challenges and successes. And to fully and utterly understand that I could never have reached this place—to just stop and notice and honor—without yoga and meditation and the community of lil omm. lil omm is my safe place, the place where I grow more fully into who I am, as a woman, a yoga teacher, a mother and a friend. A place where I can bring my children and they too, will be fully supported, honored, held, accepted and given a chance to shine. So that when they step outside the door, into the world, their little light will stay lit and they can recognize it in others. And that’s enough to bring tears to anyone’s eyes.
P.S. Michelle Brady’s class was utterly fantastic and the fact that she was rocking it out almost 8 months pregnant was nothing short of miraculous! [editor’s note: yes- totally rockin it! check it out for yourself! get to class before she leaves for baby #3)
Thank you for sharing your truth, experience, and journey. You can find our complete schedule online. Are you a mom that needs a break? Come to Michelle and Pleasance’s monthly reTREAT: Yoga for Mamas on Sunday, August 5th @ 6:30pm. This unique class invites mamas of all ages and stages (prenatal welcome too) to come together as a community of women to revitalize, energize and strengthen our own bodies and minds in order to care for those around us. Each month one theme will be explored that allows us to go deeper in our understanding of ourselves as individuals and caregivers. Using a combination of yoga, breath work, inspirational readings, self-inquiry and reflection we will emerge with a quiet confidence and an uplifted spirit.