Yoga has a meant a number of different things to me over the years. It evolves with each distinct moment in my life taking shape in the way that is needed at that time. These days I have most of my profound yoga moments with my two-year-old son Izzy. Our journey began when Izzy was a curious one-year-old who started copying me while I practiced in my living room. He would try to figure out how to make his body move in specific ways but the only pose that stuck was downward facing dog. I think he likes this pose because he can see the world through his legs upside down. I can tell that he enjoys this pose by the giggling that ensues every time we do the pose together. The only time I thought he would shelve his relationship with yoga was when he misjudged his floor to leg ratio and whacked his head on the hardwood. His first yoga injury ended with him in tears and the kids yoga cards thrown into the fireplace.
The next time yoga played a role with Izzy was during the summer while driving two hours to my in-laws’ cottage. Anyone who has a one and a half year old knows that driving trips at this stage can be tortuous. The adult in the front passenger seat ends up riding backwards while feeding, entertaining, or just picking up toys or pacifiers that fall down behind the seat. The difficulty with one particular drive was that I was alone with Izzy since my husband had to stay in the city to work. The drive began earnestly enough with a few requests for snacks which I had carefully placed within reaching distance to toss back to him at his request. Then we moved to music which lasted for the first few bars of each song before Izzy got bored and increasingly antsy. Then I just sang for him for a while. This was its own cruel version of entertainment.
When I still had an hour to go and he was crying to get out of the confinement of his seat I was desperate to stop the heaving just long enough to get to the next pit stop to plug him into the pacifier. At this point I was desperate and stuck so I did the only thing I could think of at that moment and taught him how to breathe. I caught his attention with an exaggerated version of the deep yogic breath. I told him to suck up the air into his nose and then blow like he was blowing bubbles out his mouth. After a few minutes of protest he started to play around with this breath and I noticed that he had calmed down while he focused his attention on the breath. Inadvertently, his body started to relax as well. As I pulled into the gas station I quietly thanked the universe for bringing yoga into my life once again.
The latest yoga adventure with Izzy occurred this morning at the breakfast table. I was inspired by a kirtan I attended the night before with Deva Premal and her partner. She was telling the audience how her father taught her and her sister the Gayatri mantra when they were children. He would have them sing it to him every night. To be honest I never considered chanting with my son but it has been a challenge encouraging him to speak. We use phonics to learn the sounds of words making Izzy more comfortable to speak out loud. This morning I was thinking of Deva and decided to try to chant the Gayatri mantra with my son in order to get him to sit down a little longer and practice speaking.
I sounded out “Om”, he repeated “Om”. Encouraged, I moved to “bur” and he repeated that too. Then I moved to “ba-va-sva-had” which he also repeated captivated by the process. We went through the entire chant in call and response and he giggled and repeated his way through. Even though it took us 10minutes to go through the chant, it was worth the wait. It turns out that Sanskrit is a lot like phonics where each sound is very distinct. It was the most my son has ever spoken in any language to this date. And finally, as I left Izzy’s room this evening after saying goodnight I heard my husband singing the Gayatri mantra as a goodnight lullaby and realized that yoga had come back into my life in a completely new and amazing way.
Elisse Peltz was introduced to yoga in high school when she stumbled upon a yoga instruction manual in her parent’s library. Her experiences since then have only deepened her belief that yoga has the ability to strengthen, rejuvenate and heal the human spirit
In 2004, she became a certified instructor at Yoga People in New York. Elisse has since completed a Restorative Teacher Training at Yogaspace in Toronto, the teacher training at Octopus Garden and she became a certified Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy Practitioner.
Elisse provides psychotherapeutic counselling for children, youth, adults and families where she combines her passion for yoga with traditional psychotherapeutic techniques. She has taught at Twist Yoga, Octopus Garden and Yogaspace studios as well as schools, boardrooms, weight loss clinics and in people’s basements to encourage accessibility for all types of people.