Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Conversations with Noah, Age 4 (Part IV)

By the fourth weekend of the Oklahoma Renaissance Fair, to hell with camping: turns out, there really can be too much of a good thing. Instead, the ten of us and the kids had a sleepover at a nearby house, laughing over board games well into the night.

In the morning I practiced my daily yoga on the living room carpet as my friends packed up around me. At home, my yoga is usually free from interruptions and watchful eyes but I thought to myself, This too is yoga: not only the poses, but the concentration on breath and the working through distractions.

If I can focus on Warrior II even when my husband pinches my ass every time he walks by, I can tolerate anything.

A podcast on my iPhone guided me through the last series of poses – “In Warrior I, take an inhale. Exhale, open your arms to Warrior II.” – as Noah, wearing a plastic knight’s helmet and waving a plastic sword, galloped into the room on an invisible horse.

He watched as I moved through Extended Side Angle and Reverse Warrior. “Whatcha doing?” he asked.

Exhaling through Chaturanga, I said, “Exercising,” then inhaled through Upward Facing Dog.

Noah nodded. “That’s good for the body.”

“Yes,” exhale into Downward Facing Dog, “it is.” Inhale. It’s hard to hold a conversation while focusing on breath, I thought.

“Exhale,” the recording said. “Bend your knees and step through to a comfortable seated position.”

“I exercised by punching a bag once,” Noah said.

Perhaps this too is yoga, I thought, an opportunity to deepen my own understanding through teaching. “Sit with me like this,” I said, crossing my legs and bringing my hands up to prayer position.

The recording said “Honoring the teacher in all things, exhale as you bow forward. Namaste,” and ended with a chime. I ignored it in order to sit with Noah for as long as he might be willing to sit.

Which wasn’t long. “What are we doing?” he whispered.

“Meditating,” I whispered back.

“What?” he said, blank-faced.

“Think deeply,” I said, thinking deeply myself (namely: how does one reach the age of four without learning that word?).

“About what?” he said.

“Think about the universe.”

Noah frowned gravely and lowered his hands to his lap. “I don’t like to do that,” he said.

That was an unexpected reaction. Surely he was too young to be disillusioned by his own insignificance compared to the vastness of space. I asked, “Why not?”

He said, “Someday the planet spins really fast and it breaks apart” – he made a ball by interlacing his fingers, then tore it asunder – “like this.”

I blinked, stunned in equal turns by his horrific dramatization of our impending destruction and by his shaky grasp of verb tense. “Who told you that?”

Noah pointed behind me. I twisted to see my husband watching our exchange from a nearby chair, no doubt waiting for another opportunity to pinch my ass. His eyes widened at the accusation.

“Matt, you fiend!” I said.

Matt raised his hands defensively. “I don’t know where he learned that but it wasn’t me!”

I turned back to Noah, who was fidgeting, legs at an angle as he inspected his big toe. “That’s a yoga move,” I said. “If you stretch your leg out like this, you’ll have a seated Toe Lock.”

Noah adjusted his form to match mine.

“Great!” I moved into another pose. “This one’s called Seated Forward Bend.”

Noah copied me once more, giggling as his plastic knight helmet fell down over his face.

“Now,” I said, placing the soles of my feet together in Cobbler’s Pose, “see if you can make your nose touch your toes.” I demonstrated.

Noah pulled his feet in but seemed unable to bend forward.

Funny, I thought kids were supposed to be flexible. “You’re going to be here for a while,” I said. “Keep thinking about the universe.”

He continued to struggle.

“Okay, we’ll try something else.” Obviously, a kid with tight hips needs Pigeon Pose. “Do what I do,” I said, moving slowly into the pose so he could follow along.

His plastic helmet fell off as he moved. “I can’t do that in my knight mask,” he said, flopping to the floor.

“Then take it off. Yoga is more important than being a knight,” I said.

“I need to fight the dragons!” he said. Again with the dragons. Always, this kid, with the dragons.

“Yoga,” I said, channeling my inner (though sexier) Yoda, “is about fighting the dragons in your mind.” I touched my finger first to my head, then to his.

Noah cocked an eyebrow at me. “That’s not my mind. That’s my forehead.”

The force is so not strong in this one. “You’ll never reach enlightenment at this rate,” I said.

Noah merely smiled, crossed his legs, and raised his hands to prayer position as I had shown him before.

You know what? I thought. This too is yoga.

“We have to bow to show we’re done,” I said. “Can you say ‘Namaste’?”

“Namaste,” Noah said, bowing.

Honoring the teacher in all things, namaste.

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