Glossy Instagram images of people in extreme Yoga poses in beautiful studios or mountain tops do little to inspire you when you’re knee deep in baby sick and nappies, when you’ve been up for as many nights as you can remember feeding babies and trying to settle teething toddlers, and struggling to balance work, family and home commitments and you can feel the overwhelm creeping higher and higher…
Yet Yoga has so much to offer us as mums and we can apply it to our busy days and nights. For me, Yoga isn’t about being able to do amazing postures or striving for spiritual enlightenment, rather it is a tool to release the build up of stress and tension in mind, body and heart, and to reconnect us to our deeper, more peaceful selves, to our own inner truth, to our heart centres, to be in the present moment, and from here to connect, with love and peace, to our children.
Here are some ways we can incorporate Yoga into our busy family days and nights, reduce mental, physical and emotional tension and overwhelm and reconnect with a sense of inner peace, calm and positivity:
? STAY IN THE PRESENT MOMENT
Anxious thoughts are usually about the past or the future… what happened, why it happened, what people think of us, what might happen, what might go wrong and what we could do….. yet more often than not, in the actual moment we are in, things are well. Yoga reminds us to reconnect to the present moment, to reign in our thoughts and stay focused on where we are now. The simplest way to do this is by watching our breathing. Simply watch the in breath at the nostrils, feel the cool air coming in and making space…. follow the breath in, and then follow the long exhale all the way out. Stay with it, simply watching the breath coming in, making space, and watching the long, smooth exhale all the way out. Let your mind slow down, and reconnect once more with the present moment.
Similarly when our children are experiencing big emotions, expressing their frustrations and tiredness through tantrums, fighting and behaviours we find challenging, we can remind ourselves to be present for them. Let go of what others may be thinking…. it really doesn’t matter, breathe deeply, deeper than your own frustrations, and be fully present for your little one. You don’t need to try and shush away their feelings or quickly make things right, just keep breathing, and hold the space for them to ride their feelings through. You are doing a good job by being there for them, keep with your breath, and keep present.
? BE GENTLE TO YOURSELF AND OTHERS
One of the underpinning yamas or ethics of Yoga is ahimsa which translates as non-violence, kindness or gentleness. Of course we strive to be gentle and understanding to our children, yet at times our tempers fray with overwhelm, frustration and exhaustion. When you feel your nerves beginning to go, take a breath which is deeper that your situation, see them as the child they are in all their incompleteness and innocence, and connect to them from a place of deeper love. We are the parent and we can help them through their feelings and frustrations even if it means we have to overcome our own…. Parenting is such spiritual work, cultivating our qualities of empathy, compassion, calm and understanding! Let it change you…
Similarly, take the ethos of ahimsa to yourself and watch your thoughts… if you notice yourself having negative, judgemental and critical thoughts towards yourself, nip these in the bud, let them go and remind yourself that you are doing your very best. Listen to your own needs, listen to your body, and take better care of yourself. Let yourself rest if you need to, make sure you eat well too, and stop giving yourself a hard time about what’s not been done and instead look at what you have been doing. SO much time spent with children has little to show for it and lots of mess to clean up… but learn to value that time as time very well spent… listening to their feelings ,feeding babies, reading stories, playing… this is work of the heart building their emotional capacity, personality and your relationship, it is never time wasted, and always love invested.
? LISTEN TO YOUR BODY AND LOOK AFTER IT
Pay attention to your physical body, it has given such a lot to nurture your babies through pregnancy, labour, breastfeeding and the full on years of early parenting. Don’t take it for granted, but learn to look after it. Notice the tension in your jaw and shoulders and the tenderness in your lower back. Do some gentle yoga postures to ease shoulders, stabilise your pelvis and get the circulation flowing. Likewise feed yourself with nutrient rich foods and remember the cleansing, hydrating qualities of drinking water.
? INCORPORATE RELAXATION INTO FAMILY BEDTIMES
For years my kids needed me to stay with them whilst they fell asleep and truth be told they still do most nights. We’d lie breastfeeding for ages, and as a new parent I struggled with this, hearing such negative advice about continuing to meet my baby’s needs at bedtime. Yes it can be frustrating lying with them as they fall asleep, yet many of us don’t want to leave them to cry either as this just doesn’t fit with how we want to care for them. Yet we can change everything with a simple shift of mindset.
Rather than seeing this as wasted time, as we lie there, frustrated next to them, willing them to just go to sleep, instead we can see this as valuable time. Rather we can use this time as relaxing time for ourselves… we can practice a full body relaxation as they feed, snuggle and drift of, we can do visualisation, we can connect with our heart centre and practice the LOVE TO ME ~ LOVE TO YOU visualisation, connecting our heart centres with love as we let go of the frustrations of the day. We can use this time to relax, follow our breathing, think about what we would like to do in the future… when we get the time lol! Often now mine are older I say a gentle guided relaxation for all my kids at enjoy at their bedtime so they too are learning the benefits of yoga and self care. With a shift of perspective and total disregard for what others may be saying, we can do what feels right for our own families, and we can come to really value this time of a gentle, shared bedtime.
? REALISE THAT EVERYTHING IS TEMPORARY ~ THIS TOO WILL PASS!
At times we feel overwhelmed and totally lost in the seemingly endless needs of our babies and children. They just need us so much, there is just so much to do and we feel like its all too much. Alongside taking care of ourselves, letting things go and asking for help from others, Yoga reminds us that this too will pass. It is only like this now and all you need to do is your best. Things are changing every day with our babies and children, as are we growing in parenting skills and experience, and whilst they may cluster feed from 5-11pm now and then still be up through the night, it will pass. Let yourself enjoy the beautiful, lovely moments, and remind yourself that the hard, challenging times of overwhelm are not forever. Breathe deeper than all of it, reconnect to your heart centre and go forward doing the best you can. It is so true… the days (and nights) of parenting little ones are long and challenging , but the years are incredibly short and go way too fast.
We can always connect to our breathing, just as we do in labour and birth, we can take the breath deeper than the situations we are experiencing and we can let it all go with a powerful exhale. There’s no need for fancy postures or studio classes if we can’t get ourselves there…Yoga can support us through the ups and downs of parenting each and every day, and we can begin by connecting to our breath.
Stay in the present moment, connect to your heart centre gentle mothers, draw up strength from the earth and love yourselves as much as you love your beautiful babies.
Clare teaches Pregnancy Yoga & Birth Preparation classes in Whitehaven, Cumbria where she guides mums to reconnect with their own inner strength, wisdom and intuition and prepare for births where they feel confident, excited and empowered. Her first book Milestones of Motherhood explores how we as women grow and change through learning to love and care for our children.