When I was pregnant with my first child, I used to fantasize about all the time I'd spend on the Yoga mat with my baby. Then said child came along and after I spent a lot of time crying on the couch for the first four weeks (because having a newborn can really suck) I lugged my postnatal body – bloody nipples and all – to the Yoga mat. Those first six months were bliss once my little one got used to being on the mat with me. She'd smile and coo while I moved and weaved my way through sun salutations and the strengthening standing poses.
I was feeling pretty smug about how well it was unfolding; after all, I'm a Yoga teacher, so it's a give-in that I'd have a little Yogi baby.......Then the child became mobile. You know when you're in a Downward Dog pose and you think: wouldn't it be great if someone shoved a handful of goldfish crackers in my unsuspecting mouth right now, while I hang upside down? Or when you're in Childs Pose and you wonder to yourself: wouldn't if feel amazing if someone quietly came alongside me right now and bit into the soft flesh of my side? OR when you're completing some super relaxing Cat/Cow stretches and you just hope that somebody will come at you like a hurricane and rip the hair out of your nodding head?
Having a kid is a really great way to throw a wrench into your Yoga practice. Having KIDS (plural) is a sure fire way to really eff things up with regards to any progress you were making on the mat and with your practice. Yoga (or any exercise routine) often takes the backseat to the whining, crying, feeding, changing, wiping, comforting, and all out consuming tasks that are required of you as a mom. You know, those weeks that can be measured/judged by how many frozen pizza boxes are in the recycling bin on Thursdays when it's time to put out the garbage and I'm somewhat hesitant to let the world see how much I failed at cooking real meals for my family. I live on a busy road. I KNOW they're all judging me. I feel like I need to roll out the bins with my middle finger held high in defiance while screaming “you don't know me! I used to have time to cook, you know!”
It can feel impossible to get a meaningful practice in with children around. But a home practice (yes, even if you're nabbing a weekly studio class) is extremely important to have.Why? More Yoga = More Sanity. Trust me. Try it for two weeks – yoga every day – I guarantee you'll be a nicer person; a nicer mom. I'm way less of an asshole Mom when I do more Yoga. A home practice also allows you to 'move from within' and has you understanding exactly what your body needs in terms of movement that particular day; how to bring yourself release/relief exactly where you need it. You dictate the terms; how will your practice flow to accommodate your body today? As moms our bodies take a lot of wear and tear: carrying children (first in the womb, then on our hips), bending, lifting, kneeling, chasing, did I mention lifting? It's so important that we be kind to the body that gets us through our busy, physically demanding days.
So how can you make a home Yoga practice work when you have children at home? I'm gonna tell ya. Put your hair in a tight protective bun and brace yourself; I'm going to give you six essential poses you should do everyday, as a mom. We're gonna get precise and get it done right. Yoga doesn't need to take an hour for it to count as 'Yoga'. You need to get on the mat with a goal and then execute it. So put your kids down for a nap, plunk them in front of the tv, let the dog watch them for a minute; we're about to get our Yoga on. And please note, even if you only have time to take one mindful breath in each of these poses (heck, even if you only get to do ONE pose), it counts toward more sanity. There is power with intent and in the subtle.
SIX ESSENTIAL YOGA POSES YOU
SHOULD DO EVERYDAY (AS A MOM):
Childs Pose (Balasana)
Kneeling on the ground/mat, this pose can be done with knees wide apart or close together (try out both to see what feels best). Sink your bottom back toward your heels and reach those beautiful arms of yours overhead, hands and head resting on the floor/mat. If your head is unable to touch or rest on the mat, use a pillow/block/cushion. Having the head connecting with the ground or prop in this pose is essential; it allows you to find a release and offers you a little surrender and 'let go'.
Downward Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
From hands and knees, tuck your toes under and lift that bottom of yours high to the sky; keeping soft in the knees to begin with. Root down through your hands into the mat/floor, and branch up through your arms and spine. Hanging upside down like this for even a single breath or two allows some fresh blood to flow to your tired brain, gives you a new perspective on life, and offers your children a chance to rip at your hair or laugh at your raised bottom.
Low Lunge (Banarasana)
Do you sit a lot, breastfeeding? Do you stand a lot, carrying a child on one hip? Get down on the floor and get into this lunge. From all fours (or downward dog, if you like) step your right foot forward and get long in your back left leg. I want you to wiggle and snuggle your way into this so that you can say hello to those hips and legs of yours, in a friendly and stretchy way. If you find your back is rounded and its hard to take a full breath, nab a yoga block or a stack of books and place it/them under your hands to help raise the torso. If you can't take a full breath, you aren't reaching the goal of the pose. Repeat on the second side.
Cobra Pose OR Upward Dog (Urdhva Muhka Savanasana)
I did no put the “or” there for you to assume that they are the same pose, I placed it there so that you know it doesn't matter if your legs are on the ground or mostly elevated off – just get into a backbend! Your body and spine will thank you. Clearly if you have disc issues or you simple don't bend this way (hello zero space in between your vertebrae – some of us have bones like this and will NEVER have an exaggerated backbend due to compression, not tension/inflexibility), just lie face down down on the floor – it's a backbend in itself. However, if you are comfortably able to get your body in this position, do it often and always. Do it while you watch The Bachelor, do it while your kids play with blocks on the floor. Do it on the kitchen floor in between stirring/cooking/checking on supper. Do it.
Reclined Twist (Jathara Parivartanasana)
Wanna release some AHmazing tension? Do this in bed, before going to sleep. Obviously you can do it other times and elsewhere, but you gotta twist your spine. It releases and rejuvenates and is pure goodness. With knees bent, stack knees together - or if you wants to get nuts - cross the right leg over the left, and let the knees fall to the left side of you while your arms remain at your side, or shoulder height, OR over head. What feels good? Maybe your gaze goes in the opposite direction of your knees. MAYBE you take a big belly breath in and sigh out your exhale. Then switch knees over to the second side. Keep it balanced and if you crossed the right leg over the left leg for the first side, this time its the left leg over right, knees fall to the right....simple, right?
Mama, this is the most important one to do. Every. Damn. Day. You gotta love and be kind to yourself. You gotta love yourself up with positive self talk, kind words to those around you, and know your quiet center. It doesn't always happen, but when you're able, share your calm and refuse to be consumed by their chaos (the children, I'm referring to the children here). You rock. You're amazing. Choose Love.
Growing up I was the kid in the pool with a t-shirt on over my bathing suit. I've been self-conscious of my body for as long as I can remember. As an adult, I'm that person in the pool that unknowingly has a booger in their nose or mascara running down their face because I forgot to put the damn waterproof stuff on. This is because I'm a pasty white Canadian who can only be found in a swim suit a handful of times during the year; beach weather is short lived in my part of the country, and indoor pools are not where I can be found. The point is, I've never had confidence in a bathing suit because I'm self-conscious of my body and it's worse after having two pregnancies. But I'm working on it.
By 'working on it' I mean Self Love. That's right; capital S, capital L, Self Love. It's a very simple concept, but also, an extremely powerful one. In Yoga, sometimes the goal of the practice is to find a connection to our 'highest self'; that part of you that only knows love and joy. And so we practice Yoga with compassion, joy and gratitude; bringing these feelings into action through the vehicle of poses/postures/movements, and we start to see that our true self – our highest self – is in fact love. We choose compassion when moving through asanas (poses), offering our bodies the right amount of stretch and movement it needs that particular day. We choose joy when holding the poses; breathing in 'the good stuff', and breathing out the stuff that no longer serves us. And we choose gratitude, often in the stillness of Corpse Pose, feeling thankful for the movement that just occurred in our body, having gratitude for all that our body does for us all day long. When we find our highest self, we find Self Love.
But maybe we don't have time for a Yogic journey. Maybe the only journey we have time to take these days is preschool drop off, the grocery store and (please, Jesus) the liquor store. Fear not – there are lots of other ways to find Self Love. If you know me or have ever attended one of my Yoga classes you would know that I'm a firm believer in subtle actions having power, and intentional practice being the most effective way to do it. It's the same when working with Self Love; subtle and intentional brings incredible results. You also need consistency. After all, we've had a whole lifetime learning how to not love ourselves and our bodies; being consistent will work in our favour when getting into the habit of loving ourselves up. Let's get to it!
When finding an affirmation that works, you gotta dig deep. An affirmation is a subtle but intentional way to bring some Self Love into your life. So you want something simple and something that actually means something to you. I'm talkin' feel it in your belly, light a fire under your arse. And then you need to say it EVERY DAY.
Do you see where I'm going with this? It can be done in passing when you catch a glimpse of yourself in a mirror. It can be done at a certain time every day. But you gotta do it. You need to affirm in your beautiful mind that every inch of your body is beautiful too.
The Kali Mudra
I'm all for a good Mudra; Mudras are subtle and definitely intentional. A Mudra is a hand gesture or hand position that represents something meaningful. You can use Mudras when you practice Yoga, or when you're simply sitting....unless you're a mom and you rarely get to sit, then I would recommend pulling this bad boy out from where ever you're standing in the moment when you feel like screaming “SERENITY NOW!!!”.
The Kali Mudra is to be used when you're looking to destroy some unnecessary baggage (low self-esteem anyone? Self-destructive thoughts much?). Kali is a fierce goddess representing transformation. She wants you to become the ultimate best version of you. The kick ass person you truly are deep down; the Self Lovin' person you were born to be.
To find this Mudra, tightly link your fingers together, leaving the index fingers pointing outwards. Cross the left thumb over the right thumb to represent dominant female energy (left side of the body is known to represent the feminine qualities). Then take a big deep breath and think about how awesome you and your incredible body are. *see image below
And there you have it. Two simple, yet effective ways to conjure up some Self Love and destroy that self-conscious voice that tells you to put on a t-shirt over that bathing suit. Stop comparing yourself to others and LOVE yourself up. Be good and kind to yourself. Cue the characters from Parks and Recreation: “Treat yo Self!”. Because in the end it all comes down to how you see and love yourself. So why not take a meander down the path of Self Love; you've got nothing to lose except that grimace when you see yourself in the mirror and that t-shirt weighing you down in the pool.
Like a lot of Mamas, I use to pee myself. A little dribble here (ah-choo!), a little dribble there (cough cough), and way too much while playing hop scotch with my little girl, or breaking into a light jog. I decided enough was enough; I didn't want to live in wet undies or support the pantiliner industry any longer. I made an appointment with a Physiotherapist and never looked back.
Here are a few things I have Iearned about the pelvic floor after two pregnancies, seeing a physiotherapist who specializes in the pelvic floor, and reading some fabulous resources:
-Millions of women in North America suffer from urinary incontinence. We all joke about it but it can be inconvenient, embarrassing and socially crippling.
-Diastasis Recti (abdominal separation) allows the pelvic organs to rest heavily on the pelvic floor, limiting proper contraction of the pelvic floormuscles and can cause or increase urinary incontinence.
-Most of us are not doing Kegels properly or effectively. If in doubt, seek out a health care professional trained in pelvic floor muscle assessment to evaluate your exercises. Don't be shy!
-There are food and drinks that are bladder irritants. They can be different for individual folks and you'd be surprised what the common ones are.
-The hormone estrogen plays a major role in the abilities and strength of the bladder base and urethra. Guess who has a lack of estrogen? Breastfeeding women!
-You not only need to know how to effectively contract the pelvic floormuscles, but also how to FULLY relax them.
-If you are experiencing symptoms of a weak pelvic floor (incontinence, decrease in sexual satisfaction - to name a few) it can be fixed!! With a little effort, education and guidance you'll be good as new. Heck, probably even better than before.
We need to keep the doors of communication open about this. It's not something that you just live with because it's a 'natural consequence of pregnancy'. Seriously, it can be fixed, I'm living proof!
Here are a couple of books I found super helpful:
Jenny Rolls is a Registered Yoga Teacher (RYT 300+), a Military Wife and Mama of two, living in New Brunswick, Canada. She has studied, trained and become certified in Kripalu Yoga, Yin Yoga and Prenatal/Postnatal Yoga. Jenny believes that any amount of Yoga, no matter how little or lengthy, is 100 times more powerful when done with intention. Pick a simple intent, get into a pose, and become a more content, happy Mama. Or, just have another glass of wine - whichever today calls for.