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The Yamas of Parenting: Ahimsa

by Suzanne Brubaker

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How many times have you thought to yourself "I'm the WORST mom/dad"? How many times have you looked at someone’s parenting skills and had negative thoughts, judging them too harshly? It happens. And it's okay. Yoga teaches us to forgive and love ourselves.

Me: “Go potty and wash your hands, buddy.”

Xavier continues to play. I am calm.

Me: “Come on, bug, let's go potty and wash your hands.”

Xavier: “I will MAAAAMA.”

I am calm. I am calmmmmmm. “Xavi?” Anxiety about being late starts to set in. “Xavi, go. Potty. NOW. Please.” As if the "please" makes my raised voice less abrasive.

Xavier: “MAAA-MAAA, I'm PLAAAYing.”

Me: “Xavier, get in there and go potty PLEASE or no morning snack! NOW, Xavi. 1...2...”

Xavier: “OKAAAAY,” looking slightly panicked, defeated and angry.

Xavi finishes going potty and I realize we are nowhere near late for wherever we are going. Actually, we have plenty of time. I am the WORST mom!


Aside from being a mom to two little ones (Xavier, my 3-year-old, and Quinn, my 5-year-old), I also own a fitness/yoga studio with my husband and teach yoga. I teach about mindfulness and being present, renouncing judging, finding peace and treating others – yourself included – with kindness, an open heart and a calm mind. I even try to teach my children these concepts. But actually modeling them, living them? Well, that's the biggest challenge in my ongoing yoga practice.

The Yama is the first limb of the eight-limbed path of yoga. They are the guiding principles that lead to fulfillment and joy in life. I love the Yamas. Many yogis and non-yogis alike strive to follow these principles on some level, and most find it both rewarding and challenging. Ahimsa, or non-harming, is perhaps the Yama all parents struggle to achieve consistently. Non-harming. Think about it!


How many times have you treated your own child in a harmful way? Maybe speaking a little too harshly, failing to fully acknowledge their feelings, or being too rushed to hear their little voices. Yoga teaches us to forgive ourselves and to love ourselves precisely because of these imperfections.

When we are on our mat we practice being present, letting go of everything that happened before and everything that will happen after. We practice wellness and kindness to ourselves as we flow through the asanas, appreciation for all that we have to offer to others and to ourselves. And when we leave the mat... all of that comes with us. It begins to create a shift in us, in our conscious, subconscious, even our unconscious mind. My yoga teacher, Beryl Bender Birch, has a saying "Shift Happens.” I love it! It's so simplistically perfect.


Here are a few things to try during those challenging parenting moments when negativity creeps in.

  • Stop. Take deep breaths. Ujjayi pranayama can help instantly calm the body and mind, allowing you to respond to your child in a more positive way.
  • Repeat a mantra to yourself before responding to your child: "I am calm," "Shanti," "I am kind," or any other mantra that resonates and helps you through those moments.
  • Pay attention. Before you open your mouth to respond, take a moment to listen to what your child has to say. Be in this moment with your child, through the frustration, the anger, the upset.
  • Observe. Take a moment to observe your thoughts and reactions to what your child is doing or saying. Observe without judgment.
  • Mess up! Or don't mess up! But be kind! No matter how you respond in this moment, you must forgive yourself. You must be kind to yourself. Practice Ahimsa toward yourself and it will grow toward others!

When I come to my mat consistently, I find that my yoga practice in daily life deepens, grows stronger and leads to a happier, calmer Mama. I handle situations like the one above with deep breaths and a calm voice. In addition, as if by some miracle, Xavier does too. Just as he responds to my anxiety, frustration and stress, he also responds to my calmness, kindness and grace.

I urge you to become aware on how your practices on the mat are being reflected off the mat – in your parenting and in many other aspects of your life. I encourage you to continue practicing Ahimsa toward yourself and toward others and notice how this makes a shift in your relationships and life. Let us know how parenting with Ahimsa affects you!



Would you like to deepen your yoga practice and at the same time better understand your child? Go to BookYogaRetreats.com and choose a yoga teacher training for kids and learn to resonate with the little ones.

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