It’s the end of a Saturday morning hot yoga class. On the mat to my left, my son is lying on his back in some sort of supine crow position, his arms crossed over his chest, his hair plastered to his forehead and a small smile on his face. His eyes are closed—the picture of post-yoga serenity. On the mat to my right, my daughter is eyeing the door and the cool hallway while gulping water and fanning her beet red cheeks.
How Did We Get Here?
I’ve been doing yoga for five years now. I’m not a “yogi”—I’m a not-very-flexible 40-something who likes hot yoga because the studio is warm on a cold, rainy day. If you were my child and new to yoga, I’d suggest you watch somebody else (anybody but me, really) for clues about how to do the poses properly. More on that in a minute.
For four of the last five years, my kids have been asking to do hot yoga with me, in a real yoga studio. After waiting years for them to be physically and mentally mature enough to make it through an hour-long class, we tried it together this month.
The first time, my son and I were in a class filled with more bodies than I’ve ever seen in a studio. Mat space was at a premium. I was next to my son on one side and he was within 12 inches of a stranger on his other side.
Class started. My son and I had talked about class etiquette beforehand, so he knew what to do: Follow along, take breaks, drink water and watch quietly if he got lost. And breathe.
First, my son does not believe in breaks. And second, the instructor told him she liked to teach a hard class and started out with “yoga crunches” for days. My son glanced at me about two minutes into class and it was obvious he was taking it as a personal challenge. He cranked out every pose and push-up he could manage.
I also think he forgot the breathing part. There was definitely more grunting and less yoga breathing going on. But he made it with a smile on his face—and a healthy covering of sweat.
The next day, it was my daughter’s turn. To me, she seems like the quintessential yoga person. She likes to go at her own speed and she told me she was going into class with no expectations.
Her class started simply, moving through cat-cow and into downward dog—poses she has done at home for fun a hundred times. This is when I noticed my daughter sneaking glances my way. As I mentioned, I am spectacularly mediocre at yoga, yet she trusted me to lead her through an hour of poses. She listened to the instructor, but she watched me. Her cheeks turned pink in the heat.
Saturday Morning, Supine (Sort Of) Crow
Saturday morning was the first class we all took together. I reminded my son to breathe and relax and suggested my daughter watch someone with more skill than myself. They did not do these things. My son still took every pose as a personal challenge. My daughter followed me.
After class, my son stayed a few extra minutes, enjoying the rest after a hard class (It’s also possible he couldn’t get up yet, because, yoga as a personal challenge). My daughter bolted for the cooler hall. She told me that yoga was fun, but she’s not sure she really likes to sweat that much.
What We All Learned
We all agreed that it was an interesting way to stretch all our bodies and our brains. My son said he likes it because if makes him feel calm, which surprised him. My daughter likes the breathing and thinks she might get better at push-ups—if she decides to sweat more.
I learned that my kids approach a new experience in their own unique ways, no matter what I suggest. And it was a good reminder that my daughter will continue to watch me, even amongst louder voices and more experienced people. She might not always admit it, but she is still looking to me for guidance.
Where Do We Go From Here?
We’ve yet to see if yoga will be either of their “thing.” We all like that it’s something we can do together. One of my favorite aspects of parenting is watching my kids gain confidence in their abilities, and I’d love to see that transformation in the yoga studio. But the reality of life, time and my kids’ love for other sports may make practicing together regularly a challenge. And that’s OK. They know how yoga makes them feel. Maybe now or someday later, when they need a space to take a breath, they’ll find their feet grounded in a yoga pose.