…or yoga taught me about parenting… the two practices are so intertwined in my daily life now.
I practiced yoga long before I had children. Now, with two tinies–a toddler and an infant–I find that I have little time for yoga, but desperate need for the life skills I learned while practicing yoga. Here are ten ways becoming a parent has made me a better yogi, or maybe how being a yogi has helped me embrace parenting:
- (Pregnancy) Honor the life within you.
Somehow, it’s so much easier to honor the life within you when the life belongs to someone else. But the compassion you have for the baby life within you should also extend to your compassion for your own heart and spirit! Care for your soul.
- (Pregnancy) Honor the body that houses the life within you.
It may seem like this idea is the same as the previous idea, but this one is more physical. Because our bodies change so much during pregnancy, we’re kinder to them. We should be that kind and understanding of our bodies ALWAYS.
- (Birth) Breathe into discomfort.
I know, I know: “discomfort” is a mild word for the pain felt in childbirth. I’ve given birth twice now, unmedicated vaginal births. It’s pain. But I would not have been able to do those births unmedicated if I hadn’t first learned how to breathe into the tension of holding Warrior II. Since childbirth taught me that this is a valuable life skill, I’ve been trying to breathe into the other areas of discomfort in my life as well.
- (Birth & Parenting) This too shall pass – everything is temporary.
The pain of childbirth is temporary — and every phase the baby goes through is temporary too. One week might be difficult because the baby is jaundiced. As the baby grows into a toddler, perhaps dinner will be a difficult phase — because feeding a tiny person dinner during the hour before bedtime is the WORST idea ever. In general, the stage passes: either you’ll find a solution or the situation resolves itself. Everything is temporary.
“Temporary” includes both the frustrating and the cute. My daughter went through a long, adorable phase of referring to herself as “you.” I loved watching her grammar develop. Now, that cute phase is gone, and another one has taken over. It will pass too. Same, too, with pain and pleasure on the mat.
- Do it again! Do it again!
Otherwise known as “Practice, practice, and all is coming!” — Pattahbi Jois
Practice makes perfect–in word or in deed. My daughter continually asks for explanations or new words to be repeated so that she can learn them, just as she is constantly running, kicking, or putting her head on the ground as she learns the extent of her bodily actions.
So, too, with yoga. Practice the breath, and it will show up when you need it. Practice the pose, and its strength will show up when you need it.
- Sometimes you just have to be present.
She doesn’t actually want me to do anything, but she wants me to be there. She wants me to watch, to witness her–not to be on my phone. She pushes the phone away, puts her hand on my grading. She wants me to be with her. “I need you, Mommy.” Even if I’m just holding the bucket of sand, she needs to know she’s not alone. So do you. Sometimes, just showing up to the mat or to your life is enough.
- Blowing Bubbles can be meditation.
I would love to meditate for two twenty-minute sessions per day, but I don’t have time. I just don’t. But, see the above lesson about being present — sometimes it’s difficult to be present for her life all the time.
So I’ll breathe my breath prayer while blowing bubbles, pouring sand, pushing a swing. Combining this with repeating the action over and over and over, and it breathing and being in this way IS meditation.
- Bring your breath prayer into your life.
Breathe it blowing bubbles, stirring dinner, standing in line at the grocery store, holding an awkward cat/cow pose over the side of the tub. Breathe it BEFORE you react to the toddler antagonism toward broccoli at dinner time.
- Breathing is contagious.
When our oldest was born, we read somewhere that the perks of having the newborn sleep in the same room with the parents include learning how to breathe, how to link sleep cycles with the breath. I noticed that when I sighed, the baby would sigh too.
So we started breathing to teach her how to calm down, how to fall asleep. We’d stand over her crib, exhaling long and loud. We’d completely melt into our breath to teach her how to melt into hers. We still teach it as a coping mechanism for surviving being a toddler.
- When all else fails, have a yoga dance party.
You’re getting cranky; she’s getting cranky; the baby is fussy. So roll out the mat. Crank up some Michael Franti, some Enya, some MC Yogi. Try some interpretive dance with the baby. Be a living mobile by doing some Down Dogs, some twists, some more dancing. Laugh it out. Be.