Yoga for Kids is about a Relationship to Food and the Earth - Stories Tell us How!
by Sydney Solis
When I left Colorado nearly five years ago with my two kids in search of a new life that matched my values, we went on a wonderful journey that took us from Buenos Aires to St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
In my hometown of Boulder, Colorado I was not happy with the high-consumptive, pretentious lifestyle that even a liberal town like Boulder can exemplify. Even yoga is a big consumer item there. Getting a chance for my kids to live outside of the “bubble” as Boulder is known, was an eye-opener. We learned to cook from scratch, see marginalized populations, and most of all, adjust our living standards drastically. One that was aligned with goals and values of sustainability and social equality.
One of the most important factors in our move revolved around food. We delighted in buying high-quality and organic fresh produce from the numerous verdulerias around Buenos Aires and learned to cook from scratch foods ranging from pizza dough to tiramisu. Food was cheap and abundant. Moving onto St. Croix in the Virgin Islands, food was expensive but also farmers markets and farms abounded on the Caribbean island. Eating out was too expensive, so we mainly cooked as well as ate food that grew right from the garden, such as exotic fruits, peppers, herbs and much more.
We didn’t go out shopping a lot, since things were expensive and few selections. That made us use and reuse our clothes or go without. My kids and I learned to derive joy from the simple things in life, such as a high-quality education, the satisfaction of eating a home-grown tomato, the mental health of having a connection to the earth and one’s food, the satisfaction of self-sufficiency and working with ones hands, not to mention the home economic and community/social benefits all this has.
While living on St. Croix I started what I called a little “Yoga Farm” and befriended a 73-year-old Puerto Rican farmer and former fisherman named Tonio. He was the role model for me of what it takes to live a happy and satisfied life with so little. I call him the Wealthiest Fisherman in the World, after an Indian folktale I tell in which happiness does not come from things or money but from nature and an internal satisfaction. For truly, I have known extremely wealthy people and I assure you, they are the most miserable. For one needs to make friends with loss, as it is a constant and anyone who clings to money or things, which for me have always come and gone, come and gone or I gladly gave it away, will have trouble for loss always comes, especially in death!
When I met Tonio, he was living in the cabana of a house I rented and had a small garden in the back in which he grew everything he needed to eat just about, including more to “Give away to the peoples.” Be it cabbage, cilantro, peppers, tomatoes, coconuts, passion fruits, he grew it all, and cooked on a simple gas stove along with some rice and beans. He worked constantly, cleaning the car, working in the garden hand-tending prized scotch-bonnet peppers, or whacking the bush back. He lived off of a small social security check he received from working for 5 years at a cement plant on St. Croix in which he was paid $5 an hour. The day after he received a raise was the day he was laid off. Despite his poverty, he was a proud man and never signed up for food stamps or other social assistance. He also had so few possessions: one pair of shoes, a few t-shirts and two pair of pants. He also had a nice white guayabera shirt and pants and shoes for special occasions. He never hoarded anything but always shared and passed things on to his friends and other “children,” because having too much is “too hard to carry,” he said, in case he wanted to move on in life.
We bonded instantly over the garden, but also because he was always cheerful, content to “look at the pretty plants” and spend time outside with the dogs who were his “family.” When he came with me to the yoga farm after I helped him go to court over a wrongful eviction with our former landlord, I gave him the separate cottage on the farm in exchange for helping drive my kids to school, do the farming and help out with the household. He was a true “Pai” the Puerto Rican term for an elderly respected fatherly type of person. His contentedness came also from the simple things, the garden, cooking up by hand some good pasteles and coquito for the holidays, or his famous rice and beans. “You want coconuts? I got coconuts!” he’d say, and joyfully climb a tree to whack down some and cut them up. Then I’d turn it into coconut milk and coconut muffins and share them with him. He also loved to swing in the hammock, listen to the radio to Felipe Rodriguez, make a bouquet of flowers from the glorious plants around, look up at the stars and clouds to determine the weather and watch westerns on TV and have a cigarette smoke, which would tragically kill him with stomach cancer last March. I’m glad I got to see him in St. Croix one final time to say goodbye before he passed.
Tonio’s spirit always stays with me here in DeLand, Florida. I always shared food with Tonio and other neighbors or friends who stopped by. The economy of food starts with growing it or buying in bulk and cooking for many, not just a nuclear family. The powers that be want everyone to buy individual servings in individually wrapped packages, because that keeps the consumption capitalistic machine humming as well as the profits for the few but the alienation and struggle for the many. Sharing food is primary, and culture depends on that glue food provides. Food connectivity starts with growing and having a relationship to our food and what we eat. It provides therapeutic value to kids too having that connection, and as always I use stories and yoga to foster it!
Here in DeLand, I continue to share my home cooked food with neighbors and also have another single mom and her 5-year-old living with us. It takes a village to raise kids, and kids listen to another adult who can back the mother up. So it’s a win-win situation for us when funds are tight and help is needed because it’s REALLY, REALLY tough to be a single mom. People have NO IDEA, and America is not conducive to helping women and children thrive, which is a tragedy in its own and one of the greatest threats to its security.
In Tonio’s memory and because I'm passionate about gardening, I enrolled in the Florida Master Gardener’s program and started six-weeks of classes yesterday. It was wonderful to be among kindred spirits who share a passion for simple, sustainable living, organic gardening and a connection to nature. Florida-Friendly gardening recognizes that it is essential to put people back in touch with nature, back in touch with the plants and their yards and the connectivity of all. I know how destructive what I call Suburbistan architecture and culture is to our lives and environment, especially when it comes to water. This valuable resource of water is wasted when people do not have a connection to their outdoors or food and run automatic sprinkler systems that waste thousands and thousands of gallons. Many who waste are the wealthy elite who don’t care about wasting because “They can afford it.” This hubris is what brings America down, for a country that wastes its natural resources is one that’s in trouble. And as the economic trouble continue to mount world-wide, I’m glad I was able to pare-down my former Colorado lifestyle and be content with so little. In yoga it’s aparigraha, non-attachment and asteya, non-stealing. non-stealing from the earth or to waste it.
Through master gardeners I will be working with youth, naturally, for my volunteer time and a sensory garden is planned. Years ago I wrote an e-book for my Storytime Yoga teacher trainees called Storytime Yoga in the Garden. I will continue this tradition to educate youth with yoga and stories and be mindful of our food and natural world and how it affects our own bodies, wellness and the wellness of our families, communities and the world. All in memory of a great friend, Tonio, the wealthiest fisherman in the world.
Here are a few stories for you to enjoy from the ebook! I will be blogging regularly as i write new stories that go with Storytime Yoga in the Garden!
Tell stories to kids! Teach them yoga!