Sanskrit for Three Year Olds

For about eight months now my three-year old has been doing yoga with me. He’s pretty proud of his Downward Facing Dog. He can put his hands together in front of his heart and balance for a second or two in Tree Pose. Warrior Three is a new favorite. Headstand II (I hold his feet up) is a particular joy.

Now that I have a clock in his room that glows green – because green means go – when it’s time for him to get out of bed, he’s only present for the tail end of my asana practice. Which is pretty helpful for me because it’s difficult to saturate a pose with breath while engaging in conversation and saying ineffective things such as, “Please don’t dump all the paperclips on the floor.”

But we still get to have “yoga cuddles.”

A yoga cuddle is where he climbs or sits on me while I’m in a seated forward fold or twist. It’s beyond sweet, and sometimes a great assist for rooting the thighbones in the hip socket. Who needs goat yoga when you have a pre-schooler?

He’s started expanding his repertoire of poses and when he sees something he likes, he smiles and tries to replicate it. The other day he tried for a hand-balance and didn’t care one bit that he couldn’t do the pose without my help. I like to rest my forehead on a block when in Wide Legged Seated Forward Fold so he too reached for a block and put it under his forehead while sitting with his legs wide.

The Sanskrit for Wide Legged Seated Forward Fold is Upavista Konasana. I’m no expert but it’s roughly pronounced “Oopa –Vishta – Cone – Aaah – San – A.” Since his verbal skills are increasing in nuance and complexity, I thought I’d try and teach him the Sanskrit name for his poses. It came out:

“Oopa – Veeta – Kan – Ooo – Sana.” Followed by more and more giggles.

Next he and I sat in Baddha Konasana – Bound Angle Pose. “Ba – dah – Cone – Aah – San – A.”

Which became: “Bad-Ha – Koon – Ooo – Sana.”

I love this so much.

He’s so tickled with himself. Tickled by the sounds of new words. I slow it down and try and teach him the correct-ish pronunciation and he just keeps on going with his “oos” because its fun and makes us laugh.

I’m considering refreshing my French or learning Spanish – you know, in my spare time. It would certainly be useful and I’ve always wanted to be bilingual. But I find myself already embarrassed at the ways I will probably butcher the pronunciation, and have thus found one more reason (other than time) not to begin.

In Buddhism and yoga we talk about the idea of a “Beginner’s Mind.” The concept is meant to teach us to approach each moment as fresh, with little assumption so we are open to the reality before us. I imagine Beginner’s Mind to be a place of nervous insecurity. Watching my son, I wonder if perhaps I’m wrong about this. Perhaps I’ve missed the point.

St. Benedict begins his Rule with “Listen carefully, my child, to my instructions, and attend to them with the ear of your heart. This is advice from one who loves you; welcome it and faithfully put it into practice.”

Beginning anew brings us to a place of vulnerability where the not knowing tests our precious assumptions that we need to already know in order to be good enough. But as St. Benedict reminds us, each moment is saturated by the one who loves you. Perhaps this is what it means to have a beginner’s mind.

Perhaps without knowing it, this is what my son is teaching when he giggles through his Sanskrit. “Listen carefully, my child . . . with the ear of your heart.”

Begin with love, laughter and delight.

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