Recently, after a day skiing with my boys, I visited my local hot springs pool.
It was near the end of the Christmas holiday, and walking into the overcrowded change room I was greeted by a crowd of women and children in various states of undress struggling to stuff half wet legs into pants.
Kids whined that they were hungry, pulling on their mothers’ shirts. One small toddler screamed loudly every time her mother stopped singing Hakuna Matata. On many mothers’ faces was an exhausted expression that said, “Please, let school start soon, and pass me that bottle of wine.”
I stood back and waited, scanning the room for a free spot in which to change from boots to bikini.
Then I spotted it, across the room, a space large enough to do some wiggling and bending into my bikini. I could make it work.
It was here, growing overheated in the change room that I thought of some of the reasons I am grateful for yoga, and why I recommend it as a parenting strategy.
The practice of yoga provides flexibility, and a deep, centred calm, which you offer back to your family. Also, the benefits of yoga are immensely deeper than a short-term fix from a Californian Cab Sauv. Not only will you avoid the hangover, but you will do much better than dull the stress: you will transcend it.
Yoga makes us malleable in body and mind.
This helps you resist the urge to holler at your children when they are acting like hellions, or just break down sobbing in the middle of the mall on one of those overwhelmingly bad parenting days. And an added plus: yoga allows you to change in cramped spaces with nary a toe touching the ground.
Having spotted my place across the change room, I moved as my teacher had taught me to pick up my water bottle in the middle of practice: like a ninja. With smooth stealth I had taken the spot before any other patrons waiting even noticed it was there. Optimizing a unique blend of uttanasana forward fold and vrksasana tree pose, I balanced on one leg, slipped off one boot and then on with a flip-flop.
Switching sides and engaging pada bandha, foot activation, I spread my toes and with quiet balance pulled off my skinny jeans and then headed for the pools.
Yoga keeps more wine in the bottle.
I have searched my whole life for a spiritual practice that can bring me peace, flow, and focus of mind while engaging my body with strength, endurance, and effort akin to a strong vasisthasana side plank.
So when I discovered yoga, its moving meditation fit for me. In the flow of yoga, we notice our thoughts and let them go. We hold our bodies in poses that extend past our comfort zone and learn to breathe into discomfort rather than run from it.
Yoga brings me a calm, restorative balance.
As a mother of three tricky boys I need a rebuilding of peace and strength. You see, in raising boys, there is first the stressful problem of keeping them alive. And then there is the continuous movement of active boys that can exhaust all but the most energetic among us, movement that very often takes the form of physical fighting, because arguments are not always settled through words.
I remember once I had a wildlife motion camera propped outside to catch a photo of a visiting bear. I did catch a shadowy glimmer of this big guy, but mostly I caught my boys in various positions of struggle, fists flying, rolling on the ground. Several shots pictured one of their bodies suspended over the other in the mid air, fists raised, as they flipped around seemingly without gravity. After a few years with this crew the dominant thought of my day used to be, “Please let it be five o’clock so I can have a drink!” While there are days I still feel this, more often I think, “Dear God, when is the next power vinyasa class?”
Yoga helps you work stuff out so you don’t have to bring it home to your family.
As I gather strength and peace in my mind and body, I bring that gift home to my family by delivering a less depleted and exhausted version of myself. Sometimes something as simple as a forward fold is profound. Breathing, I first sigh, and then in a release of self-pity, my head hanging over my feet, I observe a few large, wet tears plop onto my bare toes, and wonder, “How can I be raising these…awful children?” When that thought passes, I release it and rise, bringing my hands to heart, and remember, “They are are not awful. They are spirited. And if they weren’t yours and their mortality was not your concern, you would be highly entertained. And besides, they are only half as terrible as you ever were, so you had to know you had this coming.”
Namaste, unsuspecting mother.
As a parent I have stumbled towards understanding—a bit more gracefully now—forward folding and back bending over a prime piece of parenting advice:
Peace in the family always starts with me. And with you.
And all those yoga inversions? They just help us flip our thoughts on their heads and be a little more creative and flexible. Think you’re going insane? Invert that. When you’re a parent, crazy is the new normal.
Author: Carla Poertner
Assistant Editor: Rebecca Lynch / Editor: Catherine Monkman
Photo: Courtesy of Author