What Yoga, Christ, and My Nephew Taught Me About Presence

Updated: Mar 22

This past fall semester was my most difficult one yet. Between applying to graduate programs, studying for a full-time course load, participating in undergraduate research, and working three on-campus jobs, my time devoted to Bethel Yogi fell to the back burner. By the end of December, I felt drained and uninspired. I had no hope that I would even be able to write another blog post. My yoga practice was non-existent, my faith was shaky, and then tragedy presented itself.

My uncle passed away unexpectedly

a few days after Christmas. The weekend of his funeral, like many funerals, was a weighty and emotional rollercoaster of remembrance and grief. I woke up that Sunday with a heavy heart accompanied by humbling joy that I was able to spend a few more moments with the brother, sister, and nephews I thought I might never have as an only child.

I was sitting on the couch listening to the hustle and bustle of everyone preparing to go home in the morning. Then I heard a sweet little voice coming from my first nephew saying, “no one wants to play with me.” He was recently promoted to big brother because of a precious baby brother that he jokingly calls hamburger. At three years old, he had already experienced what it’s like to be the center of everyone’s attention and, since the baby, I’m sure he was adjusting to that. Of course, my heart melted so I grabbed my cup of coffee and went into Nana and Pop Ben’s playroom to give him company.

I sat on the ground and waited for him to tell me what he wanted to play. He was not engaging with me though, so I just watched him. He started throwing plastic bowling pins around on the carpet. He smashed the small viking toys into the pins which made them go flying. All the while he was shaking his head and a bit of his body like he was in a jolty fair ride.

Now, this sounds typical. If you ask anyone, this kid destroys a lot because he’s three and a little boy. He loves running cars and tractors into each other. I had seen him play like this time and time again, but something was different. He visibly exerted a lot more energy than usual. After a few minutes, he stopped abruptly and sat slumped over still with the pouting face I saw when he first voiced he was alone. In a split second I held out my arms and he immediately crawled into my lap. He snuggled into my chest while I rocked him back and forth the way I used to when he was a baby. He still felt like my little baby, of course! I rested my head on top of his and gave him a few kisses since he rarely lets me do that anymore. He was so much older now, but he still fit perfectly in my arms. I’m sure even if he crawls into my lap as a teenager I’ll say the exact same.

I savored these moments so intently it seemed like hours before he casually crawled over my crossed legs and went back to playing. He picked up his viking toys and placed them on the Fisher-Price medieval castle his uncle played with years before. He was being destructive again, but now I could tell it was from imagination and not feelings. I realized how effective playing is as a method of communication if we all just pay attention.

This moment stayed with me for so long. I have thought about it every day since it happened. The more I sit with it the more grateful I am that I have yoga and Christ in my life. When looking back I first think of how fortunate I am to have the mobility to sit on the ground and play with him. Sitting may seem very basic, however, I know when I am a grandmother and I can sit on the floor to play with my grandchildren I will thank myself for practicing yoga, just like my granny.

Being a yoga teacher taught me how to be present with others’ emotions. I do not think I could be the aunt I needed to be at that moment without it. Yoga ignites my awareness of the world around me, an awareness that breaks the modern ego-centric culture. I could sense something off with his behavior and interpreted it as a call for love when he was unable to put those feelings into words.

Yoga made me present in the moment, but that is only the first step. Christ taught me how to respond to the moment with love. I was reminded of Jesus saying “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them; for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven” (Mt 19:14 RSV). Loving your neighbor is also loving the children around us. I love teaching kids’ yoga in particular because of the invitation to hear the voices Jesus so desperately wants me to hear. Every stepping stone in my life is perfectly placed in Christ, yoga, or both for God to teach me. Whether a teacher or an aunt, I remain God’s student.

A drought of inspiration returned after a weekend of tears. Being present with my daily life was the spark to bring me back to my gift of sharing what practicing yoga as a Catholic means to me. My intention this year is to be present in every moment and find inspiration from the mundane. I hope you find this too!

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