Let me set the stage for this story. It is 7:26am in my house. The sun was slowly rising behind the gray clouds that are a common feature in the midwest during the winter months. My 6-year-old son wanted to stay in bed, nestled warmly in his Teenage Mutant Ninja comforter. He was groggy and not afraid to express his opinion that school was so unbelievably boring and a complete waste of time. For breakfast he rejected eggs and fruit. He wanted chocolate cupcakes. He demanded to understand why video games are not allowed in the morning. Why can't he wear pajamas to school? Oranges aren't healthy, they are gross. He stomped. He sassed. He muttered sarcastically under his breath. He slammed the bathroom door when reminded to brush his teeth.
Somewhere into this Oscar worthy performance, I lost my good humor and sunny disposition. My husband tried to help by jumping in to correct this infuriating, if rare, behavior. The time came to put on the boots, coat, snow pants, hat and mismatched mittens, and my patience evaporated and my temper flared. All of a sudden getting this kid to kindergarten on time was more important than solving the global hunger crisis and disarming a nuclear country.
Right before my head explodes in frustration, I took a deep breath. I remembered my yoga. I wanted to change our state from being panicked and anxious to grounded in calm. I immediately initiated what I call "The Roaring Tiger Sequence."
Step One: Stop. Everything.
I yelled "freeze!" We stopped right where we were standing. This was not the time for negotiations, for long explanations, for 'sit down and let's discuss the pros and cons of our behavior'. Just by stopping and freezing in place we interrupted the downward spiral of our morning. Winter clothes dropped to the floor. Big eyes looked at me. He knew what was coming next.
Step Two: Take Three Roaring Tiger Breaths.
Frozen in that moment, I told my son that we were going to take three roaring tiger breaths together. He put his hands on his belly and I put my hands on mine. I told him to fill his lungs up with the breath of a mighty tiger. I tell him to exhale, opening his mouth, sticking out his tongue and roaring so loudly that he blows the tiger air into my face. (So smart and intuitive was my insistance on the brushing of the teeth!) We repeated this thunderous roar until I saw his body relax. I asked him how many tiger breaths he wanted to take. He said three. We roared so loudly three times the cat hid under the couch and the dog excused himself.
Step Three: Assume Tree Pose.
We calmed ourselves from the yang aspects of our roaring tiger breaths with a balance posture. My son chose tree pose. We tried to keep serious faces as we balanced. For me, it was impossible to balance on one foot and be angry about snow boots simultaneously. Equanimity achieved.
Step Four: Smile.
I didn't need to tell him to do this. We were both already doing it. I've yet to see a child complete the tiger sequence and not land happily on step four.
Step Five: Proceed with a calm body.
This entire process took us 3 minutes. It transformed the morning from a grumpy dismal morning to a smiley happy morning. We gathered our belongings and got out the door.
For those on the edge of your seats, no one was late. As I kissed my son at the door to the school, I felt deeply grateful. I was (and am) grateful for my smart, precocious, witty, fun kid. I also felt deep gratitude for the wise sages who came before me who taught me that all we need to find our way in life is to breathe deeply.
And a roaring tiger breath now and then doesn't hurt.