Off the Mat: The Reflections of Parenting Bring Self-Awareness

The Mirror

One of the truths of parenting is that my child is also my mirror. I see my expressions looking back at me. I hear my tone, my words, my affect in his bubbly little voice.

“Let your mat be your mirror,” the teacher said. “What does your yoga practice reflect about your life?”

Ah! That was easy to answer. Teacher after teacher would remind me to slow down, to find ease. To relax. Not to work so hard.

I immediately recognized the reflection in my mat-mirror: Work-a-holic off the mat, work-a-holic on the mat. 110% effort. Muscle through. Overthinking everything, not allowing flow. Filling every empty space with busyness. Not accepting myself as good enough. Erring on the side of perfectionism instead of acceptance. Hard work was my emotional currency: how I tried to earn my worth.

So for my self-study project during the months of my yoga teacher training, I worked to cultivate the opposite tendency from my habitual relationship with work and time. I committed to take Fridays off for the final months at my high stress job and to reflect on that experience. (Work-a-holic + no kids then = oodles of unused vacation time.) While I did not take off every single Friday, I was much more conscious of my inner dialogue about my choices for spending that time. And I did take off far more days than I had anticipated!

One of the truths of parenting is that my child is also my mirror. I see my expressions looking back at me. I hear my tone, my words, my affect in his bubbly little voice.

Once my son started talking, this mimicry became most obvious in the way he asked questions. My toddler didn’t ask “why” 2,532 times per day. Not using that word, anyway. In my own efforts to eliminate interjections such as “like” and “um” when speaking, I’ve compensated by pausing on a word, drawing its sound out, until I think of the next word or thought I want to say. My kiddo blended his curiosity with this tendency of mine into a perfect parody of his Mama. “Sky is blue becaaaaaause…” “Blueberries are sour becaaaaaause…” “It’s naptime becaaaaaause…”

Now, I see my perfectionist, worry prone ways reflected in his elementary school self. “Becaaaaaause” has been replaced by “what if.” And experiencing his overflowing, boundless, joy-filled enthusiasm expressed in never-ceasing chit chat, I better understand my parents’ continual pleas for me to tone it down. Oh, so this is what I was like.

When I teach yoga, I intentionally focus on my students’ needs for an hour or two. I can encourage them by my words and actions to quiet their minds, open their hearts and look within with acceptance. My students don’t have to deal with me before coffee, distracted by bills or messages or by my own desire for 5 minutes of peace and quiet and no complaining.

My son does. He gets my best and my worst.

Mothering editor and author Peggy O’Mara writes, “The way we talk to our children becomes their inner voice.” The messages I instill become the joys my son will allow or fear, the shames he’ll repress or accept. This is an awesome responsibility.

For me, parenting serves as the strongest motivation to focus love inwards so that it will reflect out on him and through him.

[Photo credit: (c) Eugene Goffredo]


Ginny Hamilton

Ginny is a yoga instructor, Reiki practitioner, gardener, activist, and middle aged Mama. She has put down roots in South Amherst with her spouse and young son. Daily she’s amazed by the beauty the Pioneer Valley offers, though her allergies beg to differ. She believes our natural state is to be balanced in body and mind so spirit can flow freely. Because modern life gets in the way, she offers self-healing bodywork to unravel imbalances and restore energy flow. In Off the Mat, Ginny explores how yoga’s physical and mindfulness exercises help her parent and how parenting shapes her yoga practice.

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