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April 13, 2016

What my 3-Year-Old (Accidentally) Taught Me about Yoga.

backbend yogaWhen my second daughter was somewhere between three and four—at that beautiful age of pure certainty interspersed with bouts of apprehension, swinging between profound wisdom and complete confusion—she kept us entertained via a verbal window into her thoughts and questions.

Her preschool aged reasoning and running commentary kept us as sharp as it left us drained.

One afternoon, she did something wrong, something I can’t for the life of me remember, but it was clearly an intentional wrongdoing. What she did wasn’t the point. It was her response and innocent interpretation that got me.

Me: “Three-year-old, why did you do that?”

Three-year-old (yelling at me at the top of her lungs): “I didn’t mean to!”

Me: “You didn’t mean to. Really?”

Three-year-old (yelling even harder) “I DIDN’T MEAN TO!!”

Me: “Baby. Are you saying it was an accident?”

Three-year-old (looking calmer): “Yes.”

Me: “Are you sure it was an accident or did you mean to do it?”

Three-year-old: “I think I accidentally meant to.”

I was befuddled. Befuddled and perplexed by this seemingly nonsensical word play. But, the more I thought about it, the more I realized exactly how much sense she made. It was perfectly clear.

From that day forth, “accidentally meaning to” do things has been my method for most of the things that I really need to get done don’t want to. These chores include putting gas in the car, emptying the dishwasher, folding laundry, or pretty much any household chore or for the things that I really know I shouldn’t do, but can’t help doing (eating large amounts of chocolate cake for breakfast, or hitting snooze until there’s no possible way for me to get the kids to school on time.)

There are lots of ways you can use this easy reverse psychology on yourself.

But, my latest, and I think healthiest, way of adopting this accidental attitude is in doing yoga.

I call it Accidental Yoga.

I admit it. Even though I love yoga with a devotion and passion that people get sick of hearing about, there are days I simply don’t want to do it. I don’t want to. I want to want it, but I still don’t want to. I don’t want to pick a spot and roll out my mat. I certainly don’t want to put on yoga clothes.

I know I’ll feel so much better if I do it, and I’ll be glad I did, but at that precise moment, I just don’t care. The more I think about why I should be doing yoga today, the less I want to. I am petulant and irritable and unreasonable, and “Nobody can make me do it because I’m a grownup and I don’t have to!” Nothing can get me on the mat.

So, I don’t. I don’t get on the mat at all. I don’t change clothes. In fact, I keep on the most non-athletic, uncomfortable, anti-yoga clothes I have. Dress clothes, if I’m really feeling cranky. I’m talking trash to yoga as I pace around, “Stupid yoga, you can’t make me do you. You don’t know what I need. I’m tired and I don’t have time.” I get a real rise out of my protest, honestly. I am in charge here! I am using all the reverse psychology I know.

Now that I realize I am, for a fact, not doing yoga, I can relax. Yoga is off the table. High five!

Now that I have all this free time, maybe I’ll take a little nap. I start to crawl into my cozy bed, but actually, my back is a bit stiff. I’m just gonna get on my knees next to my bed for a second and lay my upper body across the bed, arms stretched out, palms flat on the cool sheets. Man, does that feel good.

I’ll just stay here for a minute. No wait. I think I’ll pivot a little and take my upper body off the bed and bring my hands down to the floor. Just on hands and knees for a second. Nothing fancy, just stretch out my upper back…ooh, it feels good when I round my back and then arch it. No name for that move, that I can recall this second, but it’s certainly not yoga! I’m just moving around before my nap.

Okay, I have to say it would really feel good to push up onto my hands and feet with my butt in the air and straighten my legs, kind of like in an upside down letter V. Yes, I know this may look a lot like down dog, but whatever, I’m not actually doing yoga because I have no mat and I’m wearing pants and a blouse. A blouse, I tell you!

I continue like this, for quite a while, this is not doing yoga.

This little bit of stretching and moving on the carpet next to my bed, squeezed between the wall and my mattress, right before my nap, and I can hear somebody breathing and it’s such a soothing sound. It’s rhythmic, like the waves of the ocean rising and falling, and I’m glad I’m hearing that, wherever it’s coming from. It’s nice. I’m just moving. Slow dancing to the lulling rhythm of that white noise.

Before long, I seem to have gone through a whole yoga routine, and I find myself lying in savasana on the floor, next to my bed. I reach up and grab a pillow to put behind my knees and while I’m at it, a blanket to cover up with. And, what the heck, another pillow to cover my eyes. This just feels so good.

I don’t fall asleep, I just lie there, aware that the breathing I was hearing was my own, aware of how alive I feel, how relaxed and, at the same time, energized I am. I can feel the prickles of sweat on my forehead and scalp cooling, and I can feel every muscle in my body, awake and stronger than it was before.

I feel, well, I don’t know what to call it, but I feel so good. So grateful. Alive and blessed and ready. Ready for what? I don’t know, whatever I’m supposed to do next, I guess. I’m ready.

Later that night, I tell my husband that I did yoga today. In mock surprise, he says, “I thought you said you weren’t going to do yoga today?”

It was an accident”, I tell him. “You accidentally did yoga?” he teases, knowing me like he does.

I tell him, “I accidentally meant to.”

Author: Amy Bradley

Editor: Sara Kärpänen

Photo: Britt-knee / Flickr & Helen Alfvegren/Flickr 

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