In a recent Movement and Mindfulness™ Curriculum Certification, our trainer, Leah Kalish, MA, taught us about “being in the Vertical versus Horizontal.” She was speaking to the idea of self-care. That it behooves every teacher or parent or caregiver to make taking care of oneself a priority, even before attending to our children. Just like those oxygen masks in airplanes!
This concept was a revelation for me. I realized that in my own parenting I was constantly in horizontal mode; trying valiantly to make things happen for my kids. “Here, let me teach you about how this works” or “Let me help with you that.” Which left me feeling frazzled, overwhelmed, and exhausted. There was always so much to do. In horizontal mode we are thinking outside ourselves, multi-tasking, and anywhere but centered in our own spot. We appear to be getting a lot accomplished, but the energy we use to do everything is unsustainable and we are left feeling depleted, scattered.
Then, I consciously switched to vertical mode. I hung back and let my kids tell me what they knew about any given subject, giving answers only when questions were asked. I gave them autonomy to dress, bathe, get food for themselves (at age 6 and 10 they were both developmentally capable, but I had stayed in the habit from when they were toddlers). I stopped trying “to do”, and let others do for me. Most remarkably, I had more time and space for myself: to write, do yoga, daydream (if I dared) and any other things that fed my soul.
In vertical mode we are aligned with our intentions and rooted in the motivations that drive all we do. Vertically, we are constantly being replenished and re-energized simply by not overdoing, but by being receptive, letting things come to us as opposed to always trying to make things happen. We are present and centered, in the vertical we are balanced.
In the vertical state one can revisit and reflect: what is my overall intention (in raising my family/or teaching students/or being a member of this human race)? Who do I want to be and how do I want to feel?
When you make time to name it, you can see it, and when you see it, you can be it. The ingenious thing is that when others see it, they can be it, too. In taking care of yourself, you have full access to your coping mechanisms, you’re not running on fumes or giving from an empty place. You become a model for those around you on how to do the same.
The Movement and Mindfulness™ certification course was a great experience.
I left feeling my whole mind, body, and spirit nourished. I’m excited about sharing this transformative information with my students, other teachers, and especially families. Leah really walks the talk and is such an inspiration to me. I wish every parent and educator could take her course!
In exploring how to have family fun playing with being vertical, I adapted old and new material into what I call: Family Freeze Dance. Turn on your favorite tunes, just before dinner or after. Take turns pausing the song, and instead of freeze-ing (which often makes bodies stiff and breathing tight) try dropping into Mountain Pose (standing tall, rooted into the earth yet receptive & soft around the eyes and shoulders). Mountain is such a great pose to practice experiencing being in the vertical with strength AND ease. At the end of the game, use a Humming Breath to calm bodies and bring energy down for the next activity: reading time, dinner time, bed time. Take in 3 more breaths here, while enjoying the view from standing strong and easeful in who you are.
April Cantor has been teaching yoga fulltime since 1999; first to adults in studios and corporate centers, and now currently with children. Her former life as a theater arts educator with Stages of Learning in NYC public schools set her on course to working with children in ways that get them out of their desks and feeling at home in their bodies. She founded SoulShine Life Yoga for Kids and Families to bring yoga programs into Brooklyn & NY preschools, and to help families integrate yoga into their busy lives. April finds much inspiration from her two boys, and occasionally facilitates Partner Yoga workshops with her husband, dance educator/choreographer, Barry Blumenfeld.