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What I learnt about yoga and life from my 3-month-old baby

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Three years back around this time of the year, my wife Erima and I were in Rishikesh, India for Yoga teacher's training program. Under the guidance of amazing teachers and in the serene environment on the banks of river Ganges, we were practicing yoga poses, breath control, meditation and learning about ancient yoga texts. Since then, we are back in the professional world and were blessed with a cute little girl, Aanya.

As we get to know Aanya and spend some quality time with her each day, we are amazed how much we can learn from our 3-month-old baby about life. It also brought back many teachings that were imparted to us during our yoga training. Below are the four things about infants we observed and learnt from our daughter.

They move a lot and are generally full of energy when they are awake: Even though our daughter will take few more months before she can sit and run around, she is still constantly moving her legs and hands. Few of her favorite yoga poses are boat pose without lifting her back , half cobra pose , and easy variation of locust pose. All these poses, called asanas in yoga, are done in yoga classes to strengthen core and back muscles, and it is amazing how a kid is constantly doing these postures on her own with no formal training :)

Physical activity seems to inversely proportional to age for adults. In today's world, health problems like tech necks and obesity have become a norm. So, it seems physical movement, exercise and asanas are a reminder for us to move and stretch our body as we were doing as kids. When the body becomes flexible, the mind also becomes flexible and lighter :)

They smile a lot and seem to be in the eternal state of happiness: Infants smile and giggle a lot every day. Unlike grown-ups adults who need a reason to smile, and sometimes hardly smile for the entire day, kids smile hundred of times each day. According to a British study, children smile about 400 times each day. They are always in the moment. Even if they cry, the very next moment they are out of it and are smiling. Adults, when they become angry, remain angry usually for a long time.

Patanjali, who wrote the first collated text of yoga about 2500 years back, talked about happiness when he wrote " संतोषादनुत्तमसुखलाभः ". It means "by contentment, supreme joy is gained". Now, I am not sure how content infants are; however, they definitely are much more content than us adults :). There also seems to be a strong inverse relationship between age and smile; as children become adults, the frequency of smile dies down, probably due to increase in discontentment about life.

All of us will be much better mentally if we can smile a little more in our lives. Smile anyways is contagious; if you smile, the person in front of you tend to smile as well :)

They do abdomen breathing almost throughout the day: If you notice a kid breathing closely, you will notice that with every inhalation and exhalation, their stomach goes up and down. This is the natural breathing movement that is very much emphasized in yoga to activate the para- sympathetic nervous system, also called "relaxation" response, which leads to the strengthening of immune system, low anxiety, and reduced blood pressure.

On the other hand, nowadays due to bad sitting posture, over-eating, constant stress and negative emotions, most of the adults have developed irregular breathing pattern, resulting in more of the chest and irregular breathing pattern. It results in activation of the sympathetic nervous system, also called "flight-or-fight" response, for long durations leading to overproduction of adrenaline and cortisol hormones, and weakening the nervous system. No wonder, we hear the word "stress" so much in our everyday life.

My hypothesis is, if we can go back to how we were breathing as a child, we would be in much better emotional and mental state, and probably be stress-free :)

They have a strong focus and attention to things: Infants seem to have a very strong focus. They can gaze at objects and people for a long time without blinking. In Rishikesh during our yoga training, we sometimes used to do candle meditation in which you gaze at the candle flame without blinking. Kids, it seems, are already born with a strong meditative mind. My hypothesis is that since their mind is uncluttered, they can really channelize their energy. Maybe it is the reason why kids learn a new language pretty fast, and it becomes quite tough to pick up a new language as an adult.

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