Long before I was a mother, I was rolling out my mat. So when I got pregnant and had my first baby, there was no question that yoga would be part of my parenting. I knew I had to find a way to keep up my practice not just for my benefit, but for my kids too.
I completed my yoga teacher training in 2005 after a decade of regularly practicing asana for both mental and physical health and well-being. I rolled out my mat when I was feeling good and bad, when I was happy and sad, and when I needed something but wasn’t sure what. Yoga was part of my healing from disordered eating, break-ups, and trauma.
Knowing how important it is to regularly do yoga and actually making time to do yoga are two very different things. Parenting brings a host of challenges, with time management being particularly difficult to master. I can remember plenty of early days in motherhood where I wouldn’t even find time to brush my teeth let alone go through a sun salutation!
But we develop strategies and structure. Whether it be daily or weekly, we establish a pattern in which we can find space for things like teeth brushing and a yoga pose or two. We find ourselves washing whites on Wednesdays and ordering pizza for dinner on Fridays, out the door by 7:42 am on school days and scheduling sex for Saturdays.
For me, yoga is a big part of how I show myself love and care, and it’s also part of how I teach these things to my children.
But how does one go about getting their kids into yoga?
Going to Mommy and Me yoga classes at your local studio is a great start. Unfortunately for many of us, this isn’t always an option. These classes are often expensive, and if you have more than one kiddo, you’re pretty much out of luck unless you get a sitter for whichever kid doesn’t get to go with you. A much more affordable option (and the option I chose) is to integrate your child into your own yoga practice.
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Before they can walk, babies can bend and stretch and do what you do. In fact, they want to copy you! I can remember when my oldest was maybe six months old. I’d roll out my mat and plop her down on the floor next to me with a couple of toys. I’d start stretching through a few sun salutations or, if I was feeling ambitious, turn on a yoga video. Typically, I’d get through a few minutes before I’d be joined by a rolling baby working her way onto my mat.
While this may make some poses more challenging, it can make all of them more fun! From funny faces in downward facing dog to those little arms grabbing your legs in tree pose, yoga with a baby can be a blast. And, honestly, I believe this practice got my kids used to seeing me on my mat regularly, teaching them that this was an integral part of my life as well as their own.
Once my kids were walking and were interested, I’d enjoy a hot cup of coffee while they followed along with a YogaKids or Cosmic Kids Yoga video. While we’d still practice together (and sometimes with me as their “teacher”), I cherish the moments when the person on the screen is entertaining my kids for the betterment of their physical and mental health. No guilt for this screentime!
These days, my yoga mat never gets rolled up! My kids have their own mats now too, but they pretty much always prefer mine. At least once a week, in the evening, I’ll light a candle, turn on the salt lamp, and let the kids pick a YouTube yoga video that we’ll all do together. This means I’ve done Frozen yoga and Star Wars yoga and pretty much everything in between.
Someone usually ends up falling over onto someone else, and I often get elbowed in the face, but this precious time is filled with laughter, love, and mindful movement that benefits our whole family.
I’m not sure what I thought my yoga practice would be like once I became a parent, but I knew I had to have one. My ability to be flexible on the mat has supported flexibility off the mat too which, as it turns out, might be even more valuable in parenthood.