Before I had kids, I thought that inversions like Handstand and Headstand were the most effective ways to change my perspective. Nope! Nothing turns your world upside down and inside out like introducing a little one into the mix. I’ve done this twice now, and I can tell you that both times I brought a new baby into my home, it took me a long time to get back into my routine. I’m 8 months postpartum and just NOW starting to feel like I can come up for air. It’s so easy to let your yoga practice slide when things get busy, and it doesn’t get much busier than life with littles. Am I right? And if you don’t have babysitters at your beck and call, it gets even more challenging–you have to figure out how to yoga with kids at home.
I’m the personality type that I will run myself ragged working on a million different things throughout the course of the day. Before I know it, the sun is setting, and I find myself landing on my bed in a heap wondering what the hell just happened. Add a baby and a 5-year-old into the mix and, well, weeks and weeks go by and I’ve barely unrolled my mat at all. Anyone else relate?
No beuno. Mama needs her yoga.
I’m finally starting to find ways to spend more time on my mat and I’m feeling much more like my old self. Hooray! I know I’m not the only one who struggles with maintaining a consistent yoga practice with kids at home (Right?! Please tell me I’m not alone!), so I thought I’d share my strategy.
My Best Tips for Practicing Yoga with Kids at Home
Lower your expectations.
Everything changes when you have kids. Your body changes. Your hormones shift. Your mind races with all the possible scenarios that could cause harm to your sweet little one. Your free time vanishes.
Of course your yoga practice is going to change, too. Big time! This is especially true if you plan on practicing at home while your little one is in your care. If you don’t prioritize it, you might never get time to unroll your mat. And when you do, might have to stop what you’re doing to go pick up a crying baby or refill a snack bowl. So be it.
It’s not the same as that super peaceful, calm feeling you might experience at the end of a studio yoga class. But it is still valuable! In fact, it’s more than valuable, it’s vital.
… But don’t lower your expectations TOO much.
I hear so many people say that if the best you can do is to take a few deep breaths while you’re feeding the baby, you’re still doing yoga. This is good advice in theory, but I have a couple problems with it. There’s value in taking a big, mindful breath. However, it’s far too let your practice slip away for weeks and weeks if you keep telling yourself, “Oh, I breathed today, so I did my practice.” Trust me. I have made this mistake.
A daily mindful breath is not enough to help you be your best self. You deserve better than that. Your family deserves better than that. You have to actually DO your asana practice to reap all the benefits. Take time to unroll your mat, move your body, feel the breath in your lungs, and be in the present moment–no matter how crazy and chaotic it might be with little ones running around.
Squeeze it in when you can.
If you’re like me, it’s next to impossible to practice for a full hour when the kids are home. So I practice in little bits and pieces whenever I can. I get my longest stretch in in the morning when the baby is practicing her crawling skills and my big girl is either at school or playing close by. I do a more grounding, quieting yoga practice at night after they’re both soundly asleep. Then, I meditate for 10 minutes right before bed. It works for us right now. In a few weeks, I’ll probably have to change things up. It’s not always easy to remember to do my practice, but it is always worth it.
Don’t wait until nap time.
When my first was a baby, I’d wait until she was napping peacefully to get my yoga practice in. Unfortunately, nap time was also the only time I had to shower, answer emails, fold laundry, do my actual paying job, and a myriad other things. Guess what was usually last on the list? Yup. My yoga practice.
There were some days when she didn’t nap more than 10 minutes when I didn’t have time to do any of those things. Those days sucked.
My second is turning out to be an equally bad napper, but this time I’m smarter. I get my practice in right after she wakes up, when she’s in a good mood. She plays happily on one yoga mat while I practice happily on my mat. It’s a beautiful thing… even if it only lasts 30 minutes!
Include your kids in your practice.
Little children have short attention spans. It can be incredibly difficult to do a full, serious practice with those hyper little beings bouncing off and on your yoga mat. Still, it’s always a treat for me when my girls will actually spend some time practicing yoga with me. When I’m feeling particularly playful, I make up little stories to go along with the poses (Let’s plant a garden! Or go surfing! Or go on a safari!).
But most of the time I just ask my big girl to practice along with me. She will try different things, and we’ll both delight at how amazingly strong she is for a 5-year-old. (This little girl has an effortless Tittibhasana! I am equal parts amazed and jealous.) After about 10 minutes, she gets bored and I have to help her find something else to entertain herself with so I can practice… which brings me to my next tip.
Bring out the snacks, videos, and treats.
Here’s a scenario that will be familiar to every mama who’s ever tried to practice yoga with kids at home: I unroll my mat just start to do my first Sun Salutation when my daughter comes running up to me and says, “Why do you always have to do yoga. Will you play with me instead?” Cue the mom guilt.
Or how about this? I start to practice and my daughter wants my attention so she starts running laps around my mat pretending to be an airplane. Then the baby cries because the while her sister was making laps she also took her toy away. And then I want to cry because: OMG! I just want to find my damn peace in peace! Is that really too much to ask?
When my yoga practice is going like this I realize I need it just that much more. And I will do almost anything to make it happen. I’m not above bribery. Cookies at 9 am? OK, but you have to promise to be quiet until I finish my yoga. You want to watch those annoying YouTube videos with the surprise toys inside the eggs? Go find the headphones. You know what babies love? Buttons! Here, have the remote control and mama’s phone.
I will cook them a healthy meal, read books, and spend the rest of the day being super mom. But for just a few minutes a day, Mama needs her yoga time. And I’m going to get it one way or another.