Sunday, July 29, 2012

You are hereby UNGROUNDED.

Ethan, my 10 year old, has given me permission to talk about his experience starting a Bikram Yoga practice. Thanks, Ethan!

At the end of the school year, we were all kind of at our wit's end. I had been training my brains out and hadn't been around my kids enough. They were ready for summer, and ready for mom to be home. They both started acting out in their own way, as we do when we aren't quite happy with the status quo.

Ethan started getting in trouble, and he started getting grounded. The trouble was, he couldn't make it through one grounding before the next one started. I was frustrated, he felt like a failure, and the whole system was broken.

The trouble he was getting in was "little" trouble, but it started growing. There were small matters of integrity which started leading to larger matters of integrity. White lies snowballing. Sneaky behavior.

When I caught him yet again, we had another one of our fantastic, in depth talks which seem to lead no where and do nothing. I had already taken away his legos, his books, he'd been banned from the computer. There was nothing left to take. He was living in a jail state. And learning nothing.

I asked him, "E, how do we get you to learn to make the difficult decision because its the right decision?"

He answered me honestly. "I don't know."

Intellectually, he understood that it was important to have integrity. He understood that the desire to make the right choice needed to come from within him, rather than from fear of getting in trouble.

He was sad and frustrated and so was I. There was a rift in our trust, there was a crack in our relationship. Neither one of us wanted that break, and neither one of us knew how to fix it.

Yeah, I used to get in a lot of trouble, too.
I was in yoga one day, and I was laying in Savassana, and I thought of his little face. I remember being ten years old. I remember being in so much trouble so much of the time. I remember just waiting for my grounding to end so that I could get in more trouble for some other stupid reason like forgetting to put the toothpaste cap on.

I couldn't differentiate between the scale of the mistakes I was making because I was in so much trouble so much of the time, that trying at all seemed pointless. I remember deciding that I'd just stop climbing out my window and sneaking around and just start walking out the front door because, fuck it, I was already in trouble, what more could they do?

Obviously, by the time I came to that conclusion, I was about 13 years old and had years of never making it through a grounding or winning my parent's trust back under my belt.

I didn't want this for Ethan.

The teacher in the Bikram class I was in called for us to change, to turn around and lay on our bellies to prepare for the spine strengthening series. I was hot, tired, soggy and sad about Ethan. But I heard the instruction, and I rolled over on my tummy and prepared.

I did not show the drama on my face, I did not sigh, or grunt, or breathe. I kept an expression of calm on my face because that's what you do in yoga.

And then it hit me. All the lessons I was hoping that Ethan would learn by punishing him, he could learn right here in the yoga room.

I rushed home from class and asked him, "Hey. What if we completely unground you, give you back all of your privileges, all my trust, lets just DO OVER. But you have to come to Bikram for a month, and you have to do what the teacher says."

He looked at me. Anything was better than being grounded.

"Okay." He said.

I was worried, I was concerned that he would pull other people off of their mats with kid drama, with worry for how he was doing, if he could survive the heat, I was worried for my own practice that it would suffer because I'd be parenting him the whole time.

Yoga is part of every day for Ethan, now.
We got there early. We set up by the door. I talked to Caroline, the owner of Arjuna Yoga, who was teaching the class. She gave Ethan a camping chair to rest his back agains, I gave him my Bikram's Beginning Yoga Series Book and off we went.

Our first goal was to minimize the drama. So when it got hard, he was not to show it on his face. The tougher decision, which was the right decision, was to take care of himself. To decide if he could push through the feeling of it being hot, or hard, and either continue to try or sit in childs pose. No sighing, no calling attention. Could he be accountable for his own practice.

This turned out to be his whole practice. He came to nine classes, and after the fourth one, he was welcoming the heat. He reads the Bikram book during most of the standing series, and then joins in for as much of the floor series as he can.

He stays in the room. He takes care of his own practice. I don't practice near him, Caroline wisely asked me to let her be his teacher, since that's what I'm paying her for anyway. Ethan has come to class when I'm not there, even. He's the only 10 year old in a room full of adults, many of whom can't contain their drama. Finding equanimity when he has the desire for attention has been an incredibly powerful tool for Ethan.

After class one his behavior changed.

He continued to read the book, and started calling me in to look at passages. "Mom, here's a good example of integrity."

Ethan after his fifth class
A month later, I have to say, our experiment was a complete success. Ethan changed his behavior for and by himself through the discipline of yoga. He found freedom in the discipline. He found accountability. He found integrity. And he found the desire to let these things be driving traits on his own. The impetus is coming from the inside.

Being able to share this practice with him was incredibly powerful for me as well. I had to let him be taught by others, I had to let go of my worries and fears about the other people in the room. He was a paying member of the yoga studio, I had to let him be his own autonomous creature going through his own journey.

Ethan learned, all on his own, that he wanted to be trusted and respected for himself. He learned all on his own that life is hard, and sometimes the way through is not in taking the easy path, but in taking the right path. Not the path that looks right because its what everyone else is doing. The path that resonates internally as right because it is in line with your values, the things you strive for in your life. What an amazing lesson, what a gift to watch my own kid begin to wrap his mind around that concept.

I'm happy to say that Ethan seems to have found strength and peace of mind, we don't have any behavior issues right now since we started this crazy experiment, and our rift... well it was mended the day I asked if he wanted to go to yoga. We are closer than we've ever been, and thats because he chose to ask more of himself and I chose to let him walk that path, extending him trust even though I had thought it had been exhausted.

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