Yoga can be a strength building workout, a refuge from stress, and a journey back to yourself.
When you are the parent to a young child, getting to your mat can be challenging. If you want to make it to a class, you need to navigate between studio schedules, family schedules, and arranging childcare.
I sometimes miss the days where I would hop on the subway after work, take my favorite sweaty yoga class , leisurely walk to get a green juice after, and take my time getting home basking in my post-yoga glow. But that’s not the case anymore.
When the stars align and I get in to practice in the studio with no interruptions, it can be magical.
But what to do during the rest of the time?
That is where building a home practice comes in, but this can be daunting even for some of the most dedicated yoginis. It was certainly daunting for me, and continues to be a challenge. It should be so simple though, right? It’s free, no equipment required, and bare feet are welcome. Just get on your mat and stretch. But it is not that easy. Fear of perfection can hold us back, and sometimes it is just the challenge of building a new habit.
Here are some tips that helped me in building up a ritual of a home practice, even when home is not quite as peaceful as it used to be.
Release the idea of “the perfect spot.”
It is easy to get caught up in the perfect spot. I often think if I just had the perfect home studio, then of course, I would be able to have a perfect home practice! All over social media, we see mats laid out on luxurious tropical retreats, big white rooms with airy high ceilings, or exposed brick walls with candles lit and minimalist charm. These images can make you feel, well, rather uninspired when you look at your own hardwood floors covered with legos and Lara bar crumbs.
If you are in a small apartment like me, it can also be a challenge to find a good spot to set up just in terms of space. However, my apartment is neither a yoga studio, nor a museum, and it is never going to be! It is a place where people and pets live, play, eat, and get messy! Push aside the train tracks and toy cars, and just roll out your mat. It doesn’t have to be perfect, and honestly, it probably won’t be. Don’t waste the short time you have for yourself moving things around or trying to get the right vibe or set up the space to be perfect. Just start.
Embrace the interruptions.
You put on your yoga pants and fill your water bottle. Your feet touch the sticky mat beneath you, and you feel yourself relax. You start to settle into your child’s pose, and after a few deep inhales and exhales, you are ready to move. And…the baby starts crying. Or the toddler, who was completely content playing with his cars one minute ago, needs your help in the bathroom. Now.
Or the UPS man rings the doorbell, which riles up the dog, whose barking wakes the baby.
I get it. Oh, do I get it. This is often my story.
The doorbell was my worst enemy for a long time! That little “ding dong” sound had the power to throw off my whole day.
But don’t let the fear of not being able to finish a full practice stop you from starting. In the beginning, you are just working on building the habit. It is not so much how much time you actually get in, it is about the self care of just trying to roll out your mat every day, regardless of the outcome.
A time to practice non-attachment.
Some days, you and your baby will practice together and you will be certain that your calling in life is to be a Mommy and Me yoga teacher. Some days, your little one will be napping and you will get a full 60 minutes of breath and movement in and feel amazing. Some days, you will just think about rolling out your mat, and your baby will sense it is yoga time, and immediately need you.
Most days, it will be something in between. Know that this, too, is your yoga. The getting up and rocking, and holding your baby close when you would rather be in down dog…that is true compassion. The breathing that keeps your patience when you have already prepared four different snacks and cleaned up two different spilled drinks, when you just want time to breathe on your own…that’s pranayama.
Try to embrace it, and know that it will not be forever.
Break it up and fit it in.
Let go of the idea that it all of your yoga practice needs to be on kept in the perimeter of that foam rectangle on the floor.
Take it off the mat. Think about other times you can fit in yoga poses. At the playground, practice a few standing poses. When sitting next to your child on the floor, add in a seated forward fold, and maybe even a malasana if you feel like it. Making dinner, you can try to stand up tall in mountain pose, and maybe sneak in a dancer pose. Maybe at night, as you snuggle your little one to sleep, you can practice your savasana. Those little poses broken up all add up, and all add a sense of mindfulness to your day.
I often remind myself that it isn’t all or nothing. It may not be as much as I want, and it may not be the practice that I used to have time for, but it is still valid. It is authentic, and messy, and lovely. It is still my yoga.
I heard a great saying recently, “Don’t let perfect get in the way of good.”
We are always doubting ourselves, putting pressure on ourselves, and trying to be the “perfect parent”. Yoga is supposed to be fun and uplifting, not something that we compare, or stress over. I challenge you today to roll out your mat with your kiddos running around you. Release the expectations, and embrace the fun and silly. See what happens! Maybe they will calm down and want to sit with you, or maybe the chaos they bring will put a little more light heartedness into your practice.
Either way, you will be on your way to starting a home practice, to become a better person for yourself, and the little ones who look up to you.
Author: Logan Kinney
Editor: Renée Picard
Image: Wikipedia Commons