October 20, 2014

A Short List of Tips: Starting a Home Practice when it Feels Impossible.

Photo: Ivy Dye Photography

Being a new mother is damn hard.

It’s exhausting, frightening, and sometimes miserable. I know—I have three boys.

It’s difficult to articulate how daunting it is to raise children, or explain the demanding toll it takes on your mind and body. For me, after giving birth each time to a beautiful bright eyed cherub of a baby, I looked at my body and cried. It’s a warzone. Weeks, months pass and attempting to get back to any semblance of normal is arduous at best.

Don’t be too hard on yourself—millions have women have been there, right where you are at feeling helpless and wondering why their Facebook friend who just had a baby two month after you did is already back to her pre-pregnancy weight.

I mean, how does that even happen?

Reality check—they are anomalies. For the vast majority of us, we have to take baby steps and progress is slow and grueling. Don’t give up! The most important step you can take is to simply begin.

The first time I found yoga, I was a new mother to my third son and literally exhausted. There was a high school friend of mine on facebook that was always posting about yoga since she was a yoga teacher. I messaged her and asked her where she thought I should start.

She gave me some helpful suggestions of a few videos I could try at home, which I promptly went out and bought. I was too nervous to go to an actual studio yet, so I was able to slowly get my feet under me by trying it out at home first. For me personally, the videos weren’t enough and I needed the expertise of an instructor to guide me, so shortly thereafter I started at an actual studio, but with children and a new baby, getting myself to yoga class weekly was flat impossible.

So I began what is called a “home practice.”

What is a home yoga practice you ask? Basically, it is committing to practicing yoga outside of the studio, on your own. Nowadays there is a much greater access to media and wonderful yoga class content that simply didn’t exist when I started yoga.

Beginning and maintaining a home practice is a little easier now in the sense that you have more support and choices than you used to, but is exactly the same in the sense that it still takes sheer will to develop and maintain.

One of the greatest complications in developing a home practice, especially for mothers is the problem of distractions.

With three boys, believe me when I say that my house is crowded, chaotic, rambunctious, disruptive, frenzied and so un-like a yoga studio, it looks from the outside like an impossible place to find peace let alone practice yoga. But I do it. I do it because it helps me as a woman, a mother and a wife.

Sometimes I am on my mat 30 minutes, sometimes it’s five.

But getting there restores a sense of determination when I need it, energy when I require it, and peace when I crave it. Some days I work on advanced postures I am trying to learn, some days I do repetitive Sun Salutations and other days I literally only lay in child’s pose. The goal is to get there.

Here’s a short list of things I do that may help you create a home practice of your own.

1. Ask for help.

With social media at its peak, there is more availability than ever for gaining information. Find someone you know that either does yoga or teaches and ask them for suggestions on where to start. If you don’t have any Facebook friends that are yoga teachers (which is almost impossible—you can’t throw a yoga block across the street without hitting a yoga instructor—we are everywhere!) But if you don’t, Google yoga local to your area and start by just getting some more information.

Figure out a starting place that works for you. Buy a mat or maybe even a postpartum yoga book. Check out the App store—you can find a million yoga apps that are helpful, insightful, and can give you enough information to begin. Yogaglo is an online site that I love to use that has classes geared towards anyone and everyone, and they have wonderful pre and post-partum classes as well. So do your homework and ask for advice.

2. Leave your mat out.

I personally leave my mat out in the middle of the living room floor (unless my in laws are coming over). The boys walk all over it, my dog likes to nap on it for some reason and sometimes it gets pretty dirty. But leaving it out reminds me to get there. Leaving it out also gently reassures me that it is there for me when I need it. All which help me practice more often out of sheer frequency. Out of sight out of mind unfortunately rings true.. so keep your mat out!

3. Own headphones.

Invest in a good pair! If you are a mommy, you know there are days that the noise decibel level inside is too much to bear and there are days your stress level can be at its peak. This is the time to plug in your headphones, put on a song that speaks to you (for me that is Jimi Hendrix, ‘Red House’), and do a few sun salutations. Maybe just breathe and sit in child’s pose.

No matter what is going on around you, headphones will help you tune out the noise and take a few moments to yourself to center and recharge. You will feel better after a few minutes, I promise!

4. Ignore everything else going on.

Barring an accident that draws blood, the kids will survive without your attention for 10 minutes. The laundry, dishes, or checking facebook can wait, you can DVR or pause the television, and your bedtime can be postponed a half hour.

See suggestion #2 above (headphones), tune out the rest and focus on giving your practice your full attention. I use this tactic when I need a few minutes (a mommy time out if you will), and now when I am on the mat, my boys know that I will not answer any questions for the most part. It is my time. With infant babies I definitely suggest taking advantage of naptime and utilizing that block for yoga. It is important that you take care of yourself!

5. Don’t worry about a plan.

There are days I get on my mat and I stay in down dog for a long time before I decided where to go next. Other days, I am able to move between several poses without thinking, and even other days the creative juices are flowing and I am able to make up a series to teach for my next class.

The point to remember is that it doesn’t matter. You don’t need a plan at all! That being said, if you are a person that needs structure, then start with a specific set of poses or try a internet class. I often take a class on YogaGlo to revive when I need to find new inspirations. Finding your way and doing it is more important than what you do.

6. Establish a routine time, or don’t.

What I mean by this is take into consideration the type of person you are when developing your home practice. Are you the type of person that if you set an alarm you are more likely to follow through, or are you a person that is better if you leisurely find your way to the mat during the week.

For me, I practice whenever the mood strikes me, and since I keep my mat out, I can fold a few shirts in a load of laundry, turn around and practice five kick ups, and then finish folding the laundry and somehow it just works for me. I also tended to do yoga when the kids were napping—that quiet time seemed luxurious and I used it to treat myself rather than doing the dishes. So take a look at your day, and figure out what suits you best. Know yourself, and plan accordingly.

7. Practice with the Seasons. Think outside the box!

Is it a sunshiny day? Move outside! Take a few vinyasas or hold Warrior 2 in the grass while watching the kids play! Snowing perhaps? Practice by the fireplace! (not too close of course!) Full moon? Bring out your cushion and meditate on the back porch.

Connecting the time of year, time of day and weather to your practice can help you feel a deeper connection to yourself. Plus it is fun and mixes it up! No one said you have to do yoga exactly the same way every time! You can also for the most part do yoga anywhere! Next time you are waiting in line at the grocery store- smile and practice tree pose. Forget the rules!

8. Meditate.

Motherhood exhausts the mind. There are days the worry and the noise just won’t quit. That is when you need to try to relax the mind and take a few minutes off. Yogaglo has some great meditative sessions to follow, or I also suggest using an App called Headspace. It is easy to follow, and for beginners the explanations and instructions given are uncomplicated. Taking time to give your mind a break is a highly effective means to centering yourself as a mother and person, and can enhance your mood, mindset, and even your yoga practice infinitesimally.

9. Most of all, be patient with yourself.

We all have long lists of responsibilities and different hats to wear as a mommy. It is tough to make time for yourself and your practice in some part, because it can seem that you are being selfish to put aside all the things that need to be done to play on the mat. However, believe me when I tell you that your ‘self’ needs it! All of those things on the ‘to do’ list will still be there, the difference is, you will be better equipped to handle them.


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Apprentice Editor: Kim Haas / Editor: Catherine Monkman

Photo: Ivy Dye Photography

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