Editor's note: This post by Jamie Nicholas originally appeared on Elephant Journal. It has been reprinted here with permission.
I realize that the title sounds a little arrogant.
Like most people, I’ve reflected back on my own childhood and have thought of some things I wished my father did differently. Sometimes, I wonder what my kids will think of the job I did — I’m not really sure I’ve been a better dad.
However, I do know that my yoga practice has affected my approach to fatherhood. Here is how I think that it hopefully made me a better dad.
1. Yoga helped me have a calmer approach to fatherhood.
It goes without saying that raising kids is stressful; so whether it was saying a quiet Om chant to myself or just remembering to breathe deeply, yoga helped with the stress. I don’t think success or failure in fatherhood is determined by whether or not you felt stress but how one reacts to the stress.
When you yell at a child, they never forget it. Hopefully my kids remember me as someone who stopped to take a breath and didn’t let the little aggravations get to him.
2. Yoga taught me humility so I could say, “I’m sorry.”
Sometimes I raised my voice when I shouldn’t have. Yoga helped me deal with my ego so I didn’t always feel the pressure to be the perfect dad, and I didn’t beat myself up when I made mistakes.
Hopefully my kids remember me as a dad that could admit he made a mistake and that he wasn’t afraid to ask his kids for forgiveness.
3. Yoga has helped me live a healthier life.
Kids have lots of energy, and they are always ready to play, whether you are or not. Yoga helped maintain my health as I have aged.
A healthy, strong back definitely helps in raising kids. Hopefully my kids remember me as a dad who was active and was always ready to play.
4. Yoga taught me that life does not conform to my ideals.
As a father, I think we all have preconceived notions of how we hope and think our kids will turn out. I always try to remember to practice acceptance while teaching and encouraging my kids without trying to force my ideals on them.
Through practice, I learned to let go of preconceived notions of myself and what I thought I should be able to do, and I learned to embrace what I could do.
Hopefully my kids remember me as a dad who gave them the space to be who they wanted to be.
5. Yoga taught me not to pass judgment.
In giving my kids the space to be who they wanted to be, sometimes they embraced things I didn’t entirely understand. Practice helped teach me that different approaches work for different people. Just because I really love a style of yoga or particular poses within a style doesn’t mean that somebody else is going to feel the same way.
Hopefully my kids remember me as someone who encouraged them in whatever they were interested in.
6. Yoga helped me balance my life.
Between work, marital relations, housework, taking care of kids and attending yoga classes, maintaining balance is crucial. In yoga class, when I would balance, l learned to keep my drishti (point of focus) constant. If the eyes wandered and I didn’t maintain focus, odds are I would lose my balance. Fatherhood is no different from this. When I was with my kids, I focused on my kids; when I was with my wife, I focused on my wife.
Hopefully my kids remember me as someone who paid attention to them when I was with them.
7. Yoga taught me patience.
When I started my yoga practice, there was a long list of things I couldn’t do. Through the years I’ve improved, and the thing that helped me the most was being patient with my own progress.
The greatest lesson I was taught was that while something is not accessible today, that does not mean it will not be accessible tomorrow. Sometimes, my kids easily understood what I was trying to teach them. Sometimes, they did not. Fatherhood was a learning experience for me in how to teach my kids.
Hopefully my kids remember me as a patient teacher.
8. Yoga taught me to not be afraid to fall.
Part of learning is falling and part of teaching and raising children is letting them fall. Yoga helped me accept that in order to learn a pose, sometimes I was going to fall. However, with each fall I would learn more each time until I no longer fell. As a father, letting my kids sometimes fall was the hardest thing to do.
Hopefully my kids understand that I protected them as much as I could, and I never wanted them to get hurt, but I also wanted them to learn to fly.
9. Yoga helped me love women without objectifying.
Yoga helped teach me respect for my body and what it could do. Along that path, I learned to view and respect my fellow female yogi’s bodies for what they could do and not just how they looked.
Hopefully my kids remember me as a good role model for how to relate to and treat women.
10. Yoga made it okay to love.
In my personal experience of being raised, showing emotions and vulnerabilities was not encouraged. Throughout adulthood, this translated into being guarded with my expressions of feeling. Yoga provided an atmosphere that exposed me to people who exuded kindness, caring and compassion. Through my time with these people, I’ve learned that I don’t have to be guarded, and I can give and receive a hug from a fellow yogi. Kids need a father who is strong but is also kind, caring and loving.
Hopefully more than anything, I hope my kids remember me as a dad who was not afraid to express his love for them and receive love from them.
I don’t have all the secrets of fatherhood, but I do think yoga helped me be a better dad. When anybody asks me how to be a better dad, I tell them to get off the couch. And get onto the mat.
Jamie Nicholas resides in southern Maryland. His interests include yoga, meditation and environmentalism. He enjoys writing about men’s issues in the world of yoga. Read more from Jamie on his website, www.manupdogyoga.blogspot.com.
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