Is it a reality to have a useful yoga practice when you have children, or should you just wait until they grow up to start your practice back? Sometimes it feels like the answer is no; it is not possible. I know for me at one time, I felt like why even try. After my first child I actually gave up, and he was the calm – more ideal child to have a yoga practice with. I will admit, I regretted it. My “baby fat” stayed on, and years later I have been playing catch up.
Now with my second – the least ideal child to have a practice with while she is a toddler, I have been determined to get my practice back. It has been one challenge after another. Even with both of my children, and while teaching Yoga and Me classes, the first thing a child wants to do when you go into postures like downward facing dog is “jump on Mommy”. I swear, even if they are in the middle of doing something else, toddlers’ attention quickly focuses on the ‘jungle gym’ that is Mommy or Daddy.
As daunting as this may seem (especially if you are a serious yogi), don’t let this deter you. There are some beneficial things you can do to make sure you have a worthwhile yoga practice, even when you have children.
Develop a consistent time for your practice
Just like nap time, lunch time, and snack time; when children have a routine they will more likely go with the flow. Once you establish your yoga time, they will expect it and even look forward to it. Of course, things to consider is their nap time. This is an option to consider as far as the time to have your practice. The only thing with this option is if you work and the best time to do a practice is after you come home. By that time, your child(ren) is up and running wild. Also, if you have a similar situation as me, no nap time, then you need to be creative.
Breastfeeding may be another challenge to consider if you have smaller babies or you are still breastfeeding your young toddler. However, this is the perfect time for a more internal focused practice. When breastfeeding, take this time to get your pranayama in. You can also do positive mantras and meditation. As a matter of fact, do a little experiment. If you typically have a fussy baby, intentionally do a pranayama (Dirga Breath) paired with a meditation; and watch the demeanor of your little one. See if his or her energy has shifted. If it does in a positive way, then you know this is one of your “go to” for this particular challenge.
The Power of Calm Energy
For me, my son always had a hard time going to bed at night. We would put him in his crib and he would pop right back up. During this time I was training in Reiki and doing my personal energy flow. The thing that caught my attention was, all of a sudden it was very quiet. I looked over and my son was knocked out asleep. I thought maybe it was a coincidence so I did again the next few nights. He would always start out fussy and refusing to go to sleep. I started my practice, and it was as if my creating a calming within myself, calmed the overall environment and he connected with that and was able to let go, relax and accept his moment to rest. This can be the same with a dedicated yoga practice; especially when you include a centering and meditation to your practice.
Find a yoga practice that looks fun for them, but is useful to you
There are so many resources out there for Mommy (or Parent) & Me yoga classes. Many parents who had a yoga practice or became yoga instructors before having children realized how valuable having that practice was and figured out specific flows that included their little ones. From little babies to toddler age to preteen. There are so many varieties out there if you are not able to come up with a flow yourself.
Find a flow that is fun for your toddlers and that will help with their general learning topics. Themes like making shapes with yoga postures, animals, nature, etc. Think about what you may need as a fulfillment to your practice. Do you respond better to stretches, fluid movement, more meditation or more relaxation?
You may have to start with a shortened practice then build up to more extended sessions. The goal is to not give up. It is very tempting to feel like “this is not going to work”, but don’t let that thought overwhelm you. Find creative ways to keep going. You may have to do a 10 to 15-minute practice. You may have to do your quiet time, breath work or mantras in the shower, bath or while cooking.
If you were not able to get your time in on one day, then try the next day. Either way, be determined. That’s why yoga is the best practice to be stuck on because you are building on your patience. You are learning how to curb your frustrations. Make this challenge a part of your process.
Adjust your postures that accommodate you both
Adjust your postures that can include your children. If you have infants, you can do postures that incorporate them and enhances your benefits. For example, if you do a 5 pointed star and do a forward bend. Your baby can be just under you. Once you do the bend, pick your baby up and use the baby’s weight to deepen your stretch. Another example is with navasana or supine boat. You can hold your baby close and twist side to side. They will like the movement and your abs will too.
With toddlers, you can have them to come up with what posture you will do. They love doing postures that are named after animals. Good ones that can serve both you and your child are Downward Facing & Upward Dog, Pigeon, Crow, to name just a few. You can introduce them to postures that are named after or resemble shapes (5 pointed star & triangle).
You can even create a story with the postures, which will help you with a useful flow. For example, you may tell the story about:
The Boat (supta navasana) sailed under the Bridge (setu bandhasana) as the Fish (matsyasana) swam beside it. The Wind (pavana muktasana) blew down the Tree (supta vrikshasana) and Twisted (supta matsyendrasana) it around.
(Yoga terms used here are from the Kripalu Yoga tradition)
Share your experience and let us know any creative things you do to make sure you get your yoga practice in with toddlers. If you are looking for creative ideas, we offer yoga classes online to get you started. Follow our Yoga & Me classes.