This week is back-to-school week for my sweet 4-year-old. That means we’re getting back into our routine, which is in some ways a huge relief for a mama who always takes on just one thing too many and has spent way too much time this summer choosing play dates or freelance work over my own self-care. (That’s right. I’m not always the best at practicing what I preach. But that’s why I know how important it is and why I can offer you so many strategies to help you get—and stay!—on track. I’m right there in the trenches with you and I’ve. tried. it. ALL. And now I’m ready for some back-to-school yoga.)
But as happy as I am for things to return to a routine of home yoga practice sessions and uninterrupted work time, I also feel like I just left a piece of myself at the preschool this morning. I mean, I just watched this tiny person with bows in her hair, my own flesh-and-blood, nervously walk into a new classroom with new teacher and new classmates for her second day of school. (The first day is so exciting, but the second day… that’s when things start feeling real.) I had to fight every impulse in my body not to stop everything for one last hug. So, I turned and walked as fast as I could to my car, knowing that she is going to spread her wings and fly all by herself this morning. Just for three hours. And then she can go back to being my baby for the rest of the day.
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Here’s the thing. I realize that she’s not the only one who needs to spread her wings and fly today. I’m getting just a little bit of independence during this time, too. Sure, there are a million things I should be doing right now. But the reality is, no one will really know if I decide to stay here on my computer for the remainder of the morning, unroll my yoga mat for a long, luxurious yoga practice, or decide to just go back to bed until it’s time to pick up my girl. I get to choose what is the best choice for ME. I get to put myself first for 3 glorious hours (minus the commute time, of course).
These moments are too few and far between. (And since I have a new baby on the way, I only have about two months to take advantage of them before everything shifts and changes again.)
So, I’m making a choice right now: I’m going to spread my wings. I’m going to use this time doing things that fulfill me. Some days that will mean working my ass off. Other days that might mean yoga and meditation. And I’m sure I’ll take a nap or two, too.
I promise you, I won’t feel guilty or regret even one of those choice. I’m going to let me be me… because as much as the people in my life depend on me to be mom, I know the world also needs me to share my voice, my gifts, my talents, and my message, too.
The world needs YOU, too, Mama. Whether you’re like me and you just dropped your little one off at school for the first time this autumn or you’re still at home with your baby full-time or expecting your first any day. We need you to take time for YOU so you can share that with all of us—so we can learn from you, laugh with you, and be inspired by you, too. OK?
Let’s do it together, shall we? Here’s a quick practice you can do after you drop off your babies at school or while they nap sweetly in another room.
Back-to-School Yoga for Moms
Back-to-School Yoga Breath
If you’re wondering if I made this up, I totally did! (Well, the name, anyway.)
But since leaving a part of your soul, something that you love more than anything in this whole wide world, can conjure up so many complicated emotions it’s a good idea to take time to really sit down and notice how your body feels in the aftermath. Sit up nice and tall in a comfortable position. Feel your spine lengthen a bit. Close your eyes. And just pay attention to what you notice, right here and right now. Is your breath smooth and easy, or is it a little more difficult than normal? Is it slow and deep? Or is it shallow and isolated in your chest? Do you feel any tension or tightening in any of your muscles? Your neck? Shoulders? Jaw? Maybe you can even feel an uneasiness in the pit of your stomach, a worry or a feeling that you’re missing a part of you? Sit with all of those feelings for just a moment.
Then take a big, slow, mindful breath in through your nose. As you exhale, just as slowly, feel your body start to soften. Continue this breath until you feel the tension in your body ease, your nervous system begin to calm, and your worries and anxieties start to fall away.
You can do this. It’s good for you. It’s good for your child. And it’s good for the world.
Utkatasana (Chair Pose or Fierce Pose)
Or, as I like to call it, Launch Your Rocket Pose—because it totally looks like you could take off here, right?
Here’s how: Stand up tall with your big toes touching. Feel your weight shift a bit toward your heels. Then, slowly bend your knees and lower your hips down as if you were going to sit down in a big chair. Feel your feet firmly on the floor. With an inhale, turn your palms to face away from you and reach your arms out wide as you bring them up and overhead. Exhaling, sink your hips just a teeny tad bit lower. Ready for blast off in…. 10, 9, 8, 7, … you get the idea… When you get to one stand up straight, reach your fingers toward the sky (you can even hop a little if you’d like to get the full effect!) Then make your way to Mountain Pose (Tadasana).
Warrior 3 Pose (Virabhadrasana 3)
Ready to take flight?
Here’s how: From standing, bring your hands to your hips and start to bring the weight into the left foot as you step the right foot back behind you and come into a High Lunge position. With your next inhale, tip your torso forward over your bent knee (bring your hands to two tall blocks if your balance if off today) and begin to lift the back leg up until it’s parallel with the floor. Flex the back foot and keep the leg actively pressing behind you (as if you were going to try to reach it to the wall behind you). Keep the hips square. When you feel stable, reach your arms wide out to the sides as if you were, you guessed it!, a majestic bird in flight. Stay here for a few breaths, then come back to standing to switch sides.
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Eagle Pose (Garudasana)
Spread those wings, Mama!
Here’s how: Start in Mountain Pose (Tadasana), feeling your feel fully grounded. With and exhale, sink your hips to find Utkatasana (see step 1 above). Shift the weight more into your left foot as you lift your right foot away from the floor, and bring your right knee on top of your left. Sink your hips lower, and if you can cross your shins (hooking your right foot around your left calf muscle/ankle), go for it! Now it’s time to spread your wings. Bring your left elbow over your right at shoulder height, and give yourself a hug. Then, turn your forearms up, finger tips pointing toward the sky and cross your wrists. Turn your thumbs to point in the direction of your nose. Breath. Let your shoulder blades move away from each other so you feel like an eagle spreading its strong wings. Stay here for a few breaths, then do the other side.
Crow Pose or Crane Pose (Bakasana)
You are strong enough to handle anything that comes your way. (And sometimes you might fall on your face and that’s cool, too, because you’re strong AND resilient!)
Here’s how: Come into a squat with your feet together and your knees wide. Bring your hands to the floor, shoulder distance apart, fingers spread wide. If you aren’t already there, come onto your tip toes and shift your weight forward into your hands. As you shift you weight forward, bring your knees to your triceps as lift them as close to your arm pits as you can get them. Keep moving your body forward until your elbows stack right on top of your wrists. Then, play. Maybe you lift just one foot off the floor and point your toes (as pictured because, well, I’m 7 months pregnant!). Maybe you put it down and try the other. If you feel stable lift both feet and point the toes of both feet. Think to yourself: Damn, I’m strong. No wonder my kid is so independent and well-adjusted (AKA, didn’t even think to give their mama a second hug when I dropped her off this morning… She gets it from her Mama!)
Now go kick some ass! And don’t forget to rest before you have to get that little one of yours. You’re doing a great job and you deserve a little down time, too.
Is your kid heading back to school this week? Are you doing some back-to-school yoga to celebrate? How are you handling the crazy mix of emotions that come with the transition from Summer to Fall? Comment below!