Yoga with kids, it’s a whole different beast…but in a good way. They key is to throw all your expectations out the window and go with what happens when you get to the mat.
Prior to having children, I had a regular home practice, had been teaching and attending yoga classes and didn’t really have to think about anything else rather than if yoga could fit in to my schedule.
These days, my daily activities change frequently and often at short notice, and so too has my yoga practice. As I have said in previous posts, yoga for me is a part of my life, and so I find time to slot some practice in whenever I can. Other spare time I save for teaching!
In the beginning, I found it hard to practice as I used to with a tiny baby who wanted me 24/7, but I was desperate to do some yoga.. so I waited till my first born was asleep, or dad was home and got into my usual lengthy practice. This was great but I was often interrupted, missing important finishing asanas and savasana. Hmm how to sort this???
Over time as my first born grew, he slept less, dad worked more and I was forced to change my expectations if I hoped to get any practice in.
So I practiced with my baby. Stopped when he cried. Stopped to feed him if required. Included him and talked to him in my asana practice.
Slowly but surely I changed my attitude to just staying on my mat for as long as I could, doing what I could. I then reduced my time expectations and focussed on movements that supported my parenting… such as;
- breathing exercises while feeding and forward bends for calmness and to fight fatigue,
- backbends for heart opening and opening of the shoulders that get strained from feeding and carrying,
- twisting to ease strain and move tension being held in the body,
- arm balances for strength and focus,
- inversions and savasana to balance out my soul…
My practice had evolved… just like my life changed as a parent, so did my practice. And that’s how it should be. Yoga can be made to suit everybody at any time, and so it makes sense that the evolution to parenthood, should include your practice.
These days my first born is 3 and he loves practicing with me in my little studio. I bring him a couple of toys (that he never plays with) and some food (to allow me maximum time in there!). I find that as long as I teach him a couple of moves, let him play with the blocks and run around with him a bit, he will often also amuse himself while I get in some serious asana!
We always finish with savasana (albeit short but getting longer!) and some chanting. He loves it and we always have plenty of laughs.
Now with a 3 year old and 2 month old, I plan to do the same thing. My little girl has also come with me to practice, and has not been too bad yet- but it’s a journey that I am willing to take!
Here’s a few pics of a chilly early morning practice recently.
Tips for getting started:
Don’t get me wrong, I love being able to practice alone and will escape whenever I can… but the reality is those times are few and far between!
Here’s my top tips for practicing with kids…..
Create a practice space – play room, bedroom, veranda, shed… equipped with a mat or two, and if you can some cushions, straps and blocks (kids love these).
Make it routine (ish) – I prefer to practice in the morning, so I will try to do this before breakky and I pack food for Ollie. I am, however, open to an arvo practice if I need to.
Be prepared– with snacks and toys where required.
Take what you can get– be realistic with time-20-40 mins is what I usually end up with, but sometimes it may only be ten minutes.
Expect interruptions– stop to feed little bubs- optimise and enjoy this time by adding a pranayama practice and sitting in a hip opening pose. When finished, just continue with your practice.
The same goes for interruptions from older children- see what they need and help them, they may just want you to include them or spend a little time with them. Do this and then go back to where you left off (where appropriate).
Have fun– I love singing and dancing and incorporating asanas with my boy- as my girl gets older I’ll include her more too. Ollie loves me to teach him new things and he shows me stuff too.
Teach stillness– savasana is a work in progress- every minute is a success and we always finish together. We always chant om and say Namaste. This will help introduce the concept of meditation and stillness to children. A great skill to have- especially in our current environment.
So now you have no excuse… give it a go, if anything it’s a great and healthy way to spend some quality time with your children. You will feel good, your children will feel good and you will plant the seeds for their healthy growth and development both in mind and body.
Goodluck and Namaste