We all know that yoga is good for us, but did you know that a steady yoga practice can make you a better parent too?!
Many of the mindfulness elements incorporated into our yoga practice are skills that we can apply during the tougher times of parenting, keeping us feeling calm and collected no matter how big the tantrum.
As well as this, yoga is something that we can pass on to our children that will help them to develop focus, awareness and rational behaviour better than any quick fix available through one of the many apps available for children.
Ever envious of the mum who always seems to float into school drop off in a happy bubble?
Read on to find out how you can be her, as well as everything that yoga has to offer us as parents, including some tools you can give to your children that will help them to better manage their emotions.
Possibly the most important thing that yoga provides us with which we can apply to every aspect of our lives.
It is a skill that can be especially important – and tricky! – to master when our kids start throwing the king of tantrums in the middle of a supermarket, or when they break that beautiful souvenir that you bought from Asia 10 years ago.
Developing a good awareness can help us to keep a rational view on things and remain steady during those more intense moments that we all experience with our children.
It can stop us from snapping at our children by equipping us with the ability to bring things into focus and understand that maybe getting angry is not the best solution – by reassuring our children that we all make mistakes we can better earn their respect, friendship and keep things relaxed in the house.
Maintaining awareness during parenting shines some light on the fact that sometimes we need to remind ourselves that constant mess and diaper changes will come to an end, but so will those treasured cuddles and storytimes. It helps us to see the bigger picture of parenting and put everything into perspective.
Better still, passing a yoga practice on to your children will help them to develop their own self-awareness and be more present in their own lives; helping them to understand the effects of their actions, build more positive relationships, and focus better in educational settings.
Pranayama is the conscious control of breath, and as well as being a key part of yoga practice is also one of the most useful yogic tools that we can apply directly to stressful parenting situations.
It works by engaging our parasympathetic nervous system to slow down our breathing, turning a ‘fight or flight’ response to one of ‘rest and digest’, something that we can all use a little more of when our children start to really test our patience! Intentional breathing can be practised at any time, and enables us to centre ourselves and remain calm.
Another great thing about pranayama is that by familiarising ourselves with some of the methods, we can pass calming breathing techniques onto our children.
Let’s face it, children can be a little irrational and will have a complete meltdown whether they have cut their knee open or dropped their sweets on the floor. By teaching them how to control their breath as soon as they are able, they will be better able to deal with situations which they find emotional by putting intentional breathing into practice, allowing them time to rationally assess a situation before reacting.
Ujjayi breathing is a great way to incorporate a bit of fun into intentional breathing with children. Also known as ‘ocean breathing’, it is done by creating a constriction in your throat to make an audible sound when you inhale and exhale. Imagine you are trying to fog up a mirror…now do it with your mouth closed…and you have yourself an ujjayi breath! Encourage children to use this response when they are upset, instead of screaming and getting themselves worked up and emotional.
Belly breathing is also an easy pranayama for children to grasp, and can quickly calm a stressful child or parent. Have them lay on the floor next to you and place one or both hands onto their belly, then breathe in a way that raises the hand with each inhale, and allows it to fall with each exhale.
You can build on this by counting out loud up to 3 for each inhale, and 6 for each exhale – a quick way to calm to the nervous system and return the body to ‘rest and digest’ mode.
Self love is always, always important. But even more so when you’re constantly putting others’ needs before your own!
Being a parent means giving your children your time, love and attention, but this doesn’t mean that you have to completely give up those things for yourself.
Remember your own value, and dedicate an hour a day towards yoga – this may sound totally undoable, but it is also vital. How much time do we spend on our phones or watching television, that we could instead be investing in crucial yoga time?!
Most importantly, don’t consider your time on the mat to be a luxury, but a necessity.
By practicing daily, your children will quickly learn that yoga is an integral part of your life and something which they also have to allow you the time for.
Time management is something that suddenly becomes very difficult the second we become parents, but by practicing once your children are in bed or before they wake up (as unappealing as that sounds) you will find it easier to dedicate some time to yourself without taking time away from your children.
Another way is to involve them in your practice! Whether or not you intend to practice with your children, they will watch you, and they will copy you, but this can be a great thing, embrace it. Practicing yoga with kids can make it so much more fun, and help it to become a part of their lives as much as it is a part of yours.
By taking some time out for self love, you are better able to create a loving environment for your children to grow up in, whilst showing them how important it is to love themselves and their own bodies in the same way that you are loving yours.
Unarguably, parenting requires us to have a lot of energy. Yoga doesn’t always have to be a solid hour-long practice, but you can find new energy through a 5 minute pranayama or 10 minute sun salutation to get us ready for those busy school mornings.
There are also many grounding poses which can help us to find a more positive energy in stressful parenting situations – spending a few minutes in childs pose or waterfall pose – with your children! – can help everybody in the house to feel a little more calm, collected and happy.
You absolutely should be!
Yoga is life changing and will bring you much more than strength and flexibility.
Start by choosing a time and space in which you can practice yoga that will fit in with your daily schedule as well as with your family, and stick to it – at least at the beginning, give yoga enough time to become a habit before skipping any days.
One of the best things about starting a yoga practice is that it doesn’t have to cost you anything! Yoga can be done on a towel whilst wearing your pyjamas, meaning that you can roll out of bed in the morning and start before all of the parenting chores begin to pile up. If you do want to invest in a yoga mat, great. This way you can pick the style, colour and material that’s perfect for you to keep you off of the sofa and on your mat in the evenings once the kids are – hopefully – sound asleep.
Yoga can give us a better view and a more positive outlook as parents. It can teach us to be present and attentive, instead of distant and frustrated. The tools that yoga will equip you with on the mat, will help you to appreciate parenting in a whole new light when you’re off the mat, and remember that calm parents make calm children – which is undeniably something that we all hope to achieve, for both our children’s sakes and our own wellbeing!
Look after yourself, and the rest will come much, much easier.
The yoganum family