I caught my 18-month-old daughter doing eka pada adho mukha svanasana (or one-legged downward dog) the other day.
This made me smile.
Okay, most things she does make me smile, but as a yoga teacher, this tickled me.
Anyone who’s ever watched a baby will know that they have such beautiful, natural bodies. Completely free of inhibition and unriddled with tension.
You want me to touch my nose? Sure! With my finger or my toe?
And while I haven’t totally mastered how to really relax into savasana (corpse pose) while she’s bouncing on my stomach, watching her roll around in “happy baby” with a big grin on her face has brought me new joy in the pose every time I do it.
It’s true that on some days it’s much harder, if not impossible, to get on my mat, but invariably it’s on those days that she’ll teach me something unexpected, challenge me when I’m being tired and grumpy or wake me up to something beautiful I wouldn’t have noticed by myself.
My hips are never going to allow me to do pigeon pose as beautifully as she can, but here are five things I’ve learnt about yoga from my daughter so far (although most of these I’m still working on!):
How to be flexible.
If you have a baby, you’ll know that it’s not always that easy to make plans—or rather to stick to them. Unless your little one naps on schedule (apparently some babies do!), you may find yourself packing everything to leave the house, only to find they have dozed off in the process, leaving you to unpack and rearrange any plans you may have tried to make.
Aiming to do one thing a day now seems realistic. I’m trying to drop the “to do list” in favour of going with the flow a little more.
Not being rigid about my practice.
Some days it’s impossible to get on your mat for a full practice, however much you would like to. But if motherhood is your path—your dharma—right now, that is your yoga! Being present for your little one, looking after them. As you go about your day, notice how often you are challenged to find steadiness, balance or take a breath. Embrace the opportunity to bring your yoga off your mat.
I love downward facing dog; it does so many things at once. It’s a forward bend, a chest opener, an inversion and you can pop it in around the house, against the kitchen work surface, on a pile of laundry on the bed, even just against the wall. Okay, the standing version isn’t an inversion, but two out of three ain’t bad, and it’s such a lovely way to stretch out the shoulders and upper back from all the picking up, feeding and general slouching from tiredness. Add in some ujjayi breath and you have your very own (micro) practice.
You can do it anywhere and it really does help. Watch how your baby does it, their relaxed belly rising and falling. Listen to the soft, almost ujjayi sound of their breath as they sleep (although I’m sure I don’t need to tell you to do this!). Start to notice the pauses between your breaths, and create a little more space in your day.
How to let go.
However good you were at multi-tasking before you became a mother, sometimes it is no longer possible to do everything. You may be in the middle of a task (or five) while they nap, only to drop everything the moment they wake up. I’ve lost track of the amount of times I’ve come back to the task later on in the day only to have no idea what it was—the “something” that seemed so essential at the time. I’d wager most of these have stayed forgotten, yet my world hasn’t collapsed!
Oh, and lastly, unleash your inner child and be joyful!
Author: Catherine Mitchell
Editor: Toby Israel
Photo: Upsilon Andromedae/Flickr