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December 7, 2013

My Two Greatest Teachers: Yoga & Parenting. ~ Keri Mangis

I have two extraordinary teachers in my life: yoga and parenting.

Thirteen years ago, they met up to create an alliance with the sole intention to teach me what I most need to learn from life. Their teachings bounce back and forth (over my head sometimes) like ping-pong balls with the hope that I’ll eventually catch one. They echo each other, support each other and reinforce each other the way that great partners can.

Through yoga, I have learned what it means to let go. I’ve learned how to let go of my muscles to deepen a posture, how to let go of poses that are not suitable for my body, and as a teacher, how to let go of trying to create a classroom full of “perfect” poses.

Parenting has also taught me about letting go. Like the night when my youngest daughter was tested for viral meningitis. To get the required sample from her spine, four people held my strong-willed fighter (age seven at the time) as she screamed and cried.

Me? Huddled in the corner unable to do or say anything to comfort or rescue her. In that moment, I had to let go of everything I thought I should be and do as a parent. I had to let go of control and accept the possibility of letting go of her (she tested negative).

Or the simpler things — like letting go of receiving hand-written notes from my young daughters each expressing their side in a sibling argument and their suggestion for how I should solve it. Fast-forward to age 13 and 11: “We got it, Mom, we don’t need you to solve everything for us.” Ouch.

Yoga taught me about being present to notice all the incredible sensations in my body while also teaching me various methods for reigning in my wandering mind, be present and feel what’s happening now.

Parenting has taught me this too. Like the first three months of both my daughters’ lives when they suffered from colic. The crying could last for hours but there was nothing I could do but hold them, all the while drowning in my fearful, judgmental and turbulent thoughts. Or the pulse beats of waiting for my daughters to come home from that first day of school after moving in seventh- and fifth- grade to find out if they made any new friends.

Yoga has taught me to accept the full range of emotions that I’m capable of and accept them as part of my humanness. My first yoga teacher would often say as we practiced Trikonasana (Triangle Pose), “expose the dark side!” encouraging us to lengthen the bottom ribs, and so much more.

Parenting is the teacher that introduced me to that full range of emotions, many of which I had no idea existed: paralyzing fear, overpowering rage, ecstatic joy and fierce mother-love. I learned how to feel these emotions and crack open aspects of myself hidden away long ago. I learned to embrace and release these emotions even if it meant going for a drive and screaming out loud. I’ve learned to accept my “ugly cry” that sometimes shows itself in the middle of the night as I reflect on my lack of “natural” parenting ability.

Yoga taught me about love and compassion. How to unconditionally love my body, how to practice non-judgment and acceptance, and how to see myself in all beings like mirrors to my own soul.

Thanks to parenting, I know about a depth of love that goes beyond anything that can be found in a book or classroom. The kind of love that scares me to the bones when you get down to it and makes me want to keep my children in hiding for the rest of their lives. The kind of love that sometimes has me swelling with pride and joy and other times has me feeling like attacking a rude 13-year-old boy or an inattentive 60-something teacher.

Sigh.

In the years to come, I know I am facing many more lessons and potentially much more difficult ones as my girls fully enter their teenage years. I will definitely be leaning on my teaching team!

However, I have come to the conclusion (in this moment) that if I were to bow down at the feet of my truest teacher, the one who has cultivated the most profound and lasting transformation within me, the one who has awakened in me the full scope of human possibility and all its gifts, it would definitely be the god of parenting (sorry, Shiva!).

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Assistant Editor: Miciah Bennett/Editor: Bryonie Wise

Photo: J. Gaddis

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