Waldorf & Ayurveda: A Daily Rhythm for Parenting Freedom
As a Yoga Health Coach-in training, I’m seeing so many parallels between Waldorf education and Ayurveda. Because both of these are a little mysterious for the average American, and also IMMENSELY helpful in the work of parenting, I hope to shed some light here for other parents.
From Rhythm Rebel to Rhythm Champion
First off, I’ve always considered myself to be a bit of a rebel. Mainly, I’m really into FREEDOM. Uniforms, dress codes, and things that restrict individual expression feel stifling to me. As part of my identity with being a rebel, I grew up thinking of discipline as something that 1) I didn’t have, and 2) was overrated anyway. Who needs rules, right? (hindsight is 20/20!)
Once I had a shot at a good job, but I turned it down because I was going to be required to take out my nose piercing. I guess it doesn’t come as a great surprise, then, that now I’m an entrepreneur and I homeschool my kids. What does come as a surprise — at least to me — is that even though I am a “free-spirit” and might appear to be without structure, I rely heavily on the structure that I’ve created for my family through Ayurveda and Waldorf.
The Waldorf Rhythm
Let me back up to beginning of my role of homeschooling my kids…that was my first palpable brush with the realization that structure and discipline can create a container for more ease and freedom. When I was learning about Waldorf education six years ago, a word I kept hearing over and over was “rhythm.” Waldorf teachers and texts talk about daily rhythm — orchestrating the child’s day like the breath, with time for breathing in (stimulating activity) and time for breathing out (restful, grounding).
Then there’s the weekly rhythm — with certain days devoted to certain regular activities — and the yearly rhythm of the seasons and holidays we cycle through. I remember thinking how interesting and rich the curriculum was, centered around the daily/weekly/yearly rhythms.
At that time my life felt very far from rhythmical, and quite “out of sync”, so to speak, with the natural cycles of the earth, but something about the Waldorf way of education and life (Anthroposophy) really called to me.
What is the current rhythm in your home?
A year later my family moved to Wyoming (a state without any Waldorf schools), and I knew that I was going to be homeschooling my little ones. I was in love with the Waldorf tradition, and also scared of failing at incorporating the many facets of the curriculum into our lives. As I began my journey of homeschooling, one of the first questions I was asked by my Waldorf mentor was “What is the current rhythm in your home?”.
I had such a hard time answering, as our days didn’t seem to have any kind of structure. I later came to realize that even our seemingly structureless days had a rhythm. It was kind of like that old expression — “you can’t see the forest, for the trees.” Once I was able to see what rhythm was already present, I could look at what parts I wanted to keep, or change, and what parts needed to be the more stable, anchor points within our days.
I was very resistant to this at first, but after reading about the benefits of consistency in the lives’ of children, I decided to give it a try. I found that the biggest anchor for my family is mealtimes, and that if we keep those times consistent, our days flow more easily.
Time for Mom
One of the next structural pieces that I needed to implement as a Waldorf mom was waking up early — as in, before my kids — in order to have time to myself and to be intentional about our day. This was very hard for me at first, but I found that once I committed to this new habit, the joy and ease of our days increased, and I wasn’t so grumpy to my kids anymore!
Ayurveda Daily Rhythm
Fast forward a few years,
and I’m in the Yoga Health Coaching program where I enjoy the benefits of rhythm in my family’s life, and now teach other people how to live more in tune with the rhythms of nature. Little did I know at the time I started with Waldorf homeschooling, that Ayurveda teaches us about the importance of waking early (before the dawn), eating our meals at particularly beneficial times, and going to bed early.
Through YHC I’m learning more about Ayurveda and the simple habits that help us tune into our bodies and nature in order to thrive as individuals, communities, and globally. I’m also learning how beautifully the principles of Waldorf education tie in with the principles of Ayurveda, and how the habits of Ayurveda (and Waldorf) bring structure for the purpose of allowing more EASE, flow, grace, and meaning in our daily lives.
Cultivate a Reverence for the Divine and Nature
Rudolf Steiner, founder of Waldorf education and biodynamic farming, among many other notable things, stressed the importance of rhythm, reverence of nature, and meeting the child where they are — mentally, physically, and spiritually. He did not dictate any particular religious dogma, although Waldorf schools traditionally celebrate the old world european festivals throughout the school year. Many families from all kinds of backgrounds choose to homeschool their children in the Waldorf tradition and incorporate whatever spiritual traditions resonate with them.
The significance lies in cultivating a reverence for the Divine and for Nature. In this way, we teach our children that we are part of something bigger than the sum of our parts, and to listen to the wisdom within instead of looking to popular culture. Here, again, Waldorf philosophy parallels Ayurveda, as we are learn to connect with ourselves in meditation (and other ancient practices) that remind us of the well of wisdom within.
Freedom of My Own Being
As a Yoga Health Coach and a mother, I’m loving so much how these two beautiful and rich aspects of my life have come together. Both Ayurveda and Waldorf have a wholistic view of life, meaning they acknowledge the importance of all of the layers of what it is to be human.
Our emotional/mental health, spiritual health, and physical health are interconnected in ways that modern day science hasn’t quite come to understand fully (although it has been making a lot of headway in recent years!). I am incredibly grateful to be part of two communities that so fully support my growth in finding the support structures that bring me more in touch with the Freedom of my own Being — Yoga Health Coaching and Waldorf Essentials.
While I still consider myself somewhat of a rebel, these days my rebellion takes the form of saying no to things that get in the way of living more simply and in tune with my own biorhythms and Nature. I rebel by not having a glass a wine, and instead enjoying a night of deep deep rest, so that I can be the kind of mother and health coach that I want to be!
What’s your family rhythm?
Does your family rhythm support freedom and ease? Does it support your vision/values for your family? Leave a comment below — I’d love to hear what habits/anchors are helpful for you and your family!