As a dedicated yogini who continued practicing throughout my pregnancy, I was sure that I would continue regularly once my son was born.
Well, those expectations were proven too high, and my yoga mat sat rolled up gathering dust for weeks after he arrived.
With a new addition to our family, it became more and more difficult to find the space – mentally and physically – to get on my mat even for just a few minutes. Although I used to often practice at home, that proved even more difficult than getting to a studio – my home was now full of noise, unfinished tasks, and the constant urge to sit on the couch and watch some TV instead of doing what I knew would benefit myself more fully -moving my body!
As my son has grown from a newborn to an infant to a toddler, I can’t say it’s gotten easier to get back to my regular practice (I think I should just delete “regular” from my vocabulary!), but it has been more fun getting him involved in my practice. He enjoys coming along when I teach kids classes that are age appropriate for him, but we also incorporate much of the basic tenets of yoga – mind, body, and breath – into our everyday lives.
Here’s how you can hang on to your yoga practice, or develop a new one:
* Practice in front of them – Many kids develop an interest by watching – instead of only practicing yoga in a quiet room or at the studio, keep your mat in the most used room of your house and pull it out when you can for a quick downward dog or sun salutation. Babies might stop and stare, and toddlers might try to imitate!
* Use a book as a guide to learn poses – My son is recently very into the pictures in “Goodnight Yoga”; we haven’t tried the poses together yet, but I love that he’s interested in looking at the illustrations of the poses. Visit your library and ask for baby yoga books!
* Pay attention to your breath – There’s so many fun ways to do this with little ones. Babies might enjoy a light puff of air in their face or on their bellies, and toddlers will enjoy pinwheels, bubbles, balloons – as you play with these items, explain to them what the results of their breath is! (“Your breath is making the pinwheel turn! “, “Your breath made that bubble so big!”, etc.) When you need a breath after a frustrating struggle, you can use these tools as a reminder – “Let’s pretend to blow a bubble like we did yesterday!”
* Stay in the moment – This is harder for grown ups than it is for babes, so let your child take the lead! Do they want to stay outside and continue playing? Let go of the tasks you have waiting for you inside, at least for 10 more minutes, and try to enjoy the sun with them. Are they super interested in climbing up the stairs even though carrying them would take half the time? Take a deep breath and slow down, and try to enjoy the world through his or her eyes – observe how he or she handles each step. These things are so much easier said than done, but if you can try it once in a while, you will enjoy the benefits of staying present.
* Come to a family yoga class – I love including the whole family in my yoga classes, and try to offer them as often as possible. Check my website for current events, or contact me with your needs and I can refer you somewhere!
Courtney D’Avella is a Certified Children’s Yoga Instructor and the owner of Yoga Friends. Her personal yoga and meditation practice has provided her with strength, perspective, and the ability to better manage emotions, and she looks forward to passing on these benefits to you and your children