Once upon a time, I did yoga regularly, often a couple of classes a week, some practice at home. Lovely long peaceful practices that helped me to de-stress and relax at the end of a busy work day, early morning stretches that were the perfect introduction to the day. The occasional lunchtime practice to reset everything after a morning of meetings. While I was pregnant, I did short practices most days, longer classes a couple of times a week, gently preparing my body and mind for the new chapter in my life.
But then came baby and yoga practice time faded almost to zero. I went to some local mum and baby yoga classes but spent much of the class walking about bouncing baby on my shoulder or sitting cross-legged, nursing him on the floor. I hardly ever practiced at home any more. Morning stretches were pretty much ruled out. Evenings were time for the putting-the-baby-to-sleep-for-the-night marathon.
All of this despite the knowledge I had from yoga teacher training, and years of my own home practice.
I didn't know my new body or my new world
I didn't know how to adapt my practice for my new body yet. For my weakened tummy muscles, for the separated abdominals, the change in the pelvic floor and the generally exhausted body of a new mother.
I was still searching for the same blocks of time. Waiting for an hour to do a 'proper practice' .. which never seemed to come.
I was waiting for my 'alone time'- just me and my mat. Not being needed. You know the kind of distance from your usual life that you feel when you walk into a yoga studio and roll out your mat? I thought I needed that distance to properly go 'into' the practice.
With baby number two I needed the practice to stay sane!
It was only with my second baby that a certain determination to practice came in. I allowed the practice to happen in small 20 minute chunks. I slowed down to the pace my body needed. My practice became softer, gentler. More focused on the breath, the calming, than the strengthening, the core work.
I allowed my children to join me in my mat. I allowed life to spill over into practice and vice versa. I challenged myself, not to do handstands, but to do yoga every day. I prioritized it, did it in the messy kitchen, before I put the washing on. I got my toddler involved. I did it while wearing the baby in a carrier. While waiting for dinner to cook in the oven, while feeding a hungry baby.
I did it to keep myself on an even keel at a time when I was home alone with the kids, in a new place, and my husband was away working. It became an anchor in my day. It made everything that came after the yoga practice a little bit easier.
Get your yoga on, even with the kids about.
What did I learn? The tips below are related to my yoga experience, but really they might apply to lots of activities that you struggle to fit in around your little ones.
Stop waiting for the time to be right. Yes it can still feel amazing to absolutely and completely switch off for an hour with some intense yoga, but it's not always an easy ask. Take the 10 minutes, the 15 minutes, whatever you can get. You will get longer again some day soon I promise!
Integrate kiddos into the practice. Lay your baby on the mat beside you, or hold them in your arms while you practice standing poses. Throw the occasional tickle and smile and they will often be happy to let you get a short practice in. For older kids, make it a story, get them to do it along with you (some of them will join in with this, some of them won't, but trial and error may reveal which strategies work best. Allow them to go under the bridge in your downward dog. Get them to try out their balance in tree pose).
Set up a play area. Baby or toddler-proof the room, lay out some favourite toys then roll your mat out (one for them too if you like) and begin to move. They may join you and try out some poses, or you may find they become absorbed in their game.
Prioritize it. Recognize how it can make life better for everyone, and make it happen. Make a regular yoga date. Do it before the cleaning and tidying-clear just enough space free of toy debris to roll out a mat and do it. Sign up for a challenge and maybe that gives you the motivation you need.
Be Zen about the interruptions. Yes yoga is asana-the physical postures, the rolling out of the mat, moving the body and breathing. But what about bringing the principles of that off your mat and into your life- use life as the practice. Breathe into it. Move with intention. Pay attention to your form, your frown, as you move about your day. Breathe again.
Adapt the yoga for where you are now. You may have enjoyed intense vinyasa flow pre-kids, but what you really need now is slow restorative yoga. Or all you can manage are some gentle head and neck stretches while you nurse baby. It's all good . It's all yoga.
Screen time before you scream. Crazy day? Small child climbing all over you and hitting you with a plastic bowl while you try to practice (no? just me then). Put on a cartoon and roll out your mat Yes, we want to limit their screen time - but at a certain point, maybe weigh up the the benefit to you (and ultimately them) from your post-yoga glow.
Distract them with snacks. Snack time for them= yoga time for me.
Find a class. Find a bring your baby/parent and baby/family yoga class. There are lots of these classes on offer- in person and online- relax knowing that other people's babies cry too, other peoples toddlers are crazeee.
Get out of the house sometimes.Want to get a longer session in or to get out of the house? Sign up for a class or a membership and put the day into your calendar and make it happen. Enlist partner, babysitter, family friend for the babysitting- planned well in advance- ideally a standing date.
Do you manage to get yoga (or another activity) in while the kids are about? What do you struggle with? What strategies do you use?