The joys of having a baby is more than anyone can ever describe, and as a mom of two, myself, I have found that unless you consciously choose to incorporate your little yogi into your practice, we often then choose not to practice at all. And for others the choice is to practice (exercise) without that little ball of joy nearby or incorporated into that very important part of your life. Yoga is a huge part of my life and my family’s life, my son Harper (now four), and my daughter Meredith (now 2) were from day one my little yogi buddies and walking buddies, they did (and still do) everything I do. Because to me, my mindset was my kids were going to be a part of my life, a part of my practice and a part of my studio, I wanted them to know no different, just like some want their kids to learn a certain prayer or family tradition, I wanted my kids to learn to live a holistic-yogic lifestyle from early on.
Like many exercise to me is important, but a mindful practice where it is a part of your lifestyle is even more important. Here are some examples: We all go for a walk (my two dogs and two kids) and we talk about why fresh air is important and how Mother Earth loves that we enjoy her and that we don’t litter(we usually are on a quest to pick it all up) and why that isn’t a good choice. I have taught my kids how to breathe and how they can use their breath to help them in stressful situations. I have a yoga room and my children adore spending time there, we take turns using my reformer, weights, and yoga mat, we teach each other poses, bounce on the bosu and I explain how bouncing is healthy for the lymphatic system and stretching is good for your muscles and mind, and building strength will help you get big and strong like your Momma and Papa.
For some in today’s society the parents may be healthy but they keep that to themselves, for many, eating salad and lean chicken at dinner, but then feeding the rest of the family greasy foods. Or going out for a hike or tending the garden but leaving the kids inside watching T.V. At my house if I want to practice yoga (while my kids are awake) or go for a walk it’s either with them or nothing. And more important than me staying physically fit, is for them to see me take care of myself in all I do and incorporate them into it; so as they get older it’s no different than brushing their teeth, reading books and taking a bath. To them I want it is simply how things have always been, and these skills are skills that can and should be taught by the parents. Now sure they crawl all over me in plank and slide down my back in Downward Dog, and that at times gets to be a little much, but that won’t be forever and yoga to me is more than exercise it’s tapping into the inners self and connecting, isn’t it for you?
Downward Dog Kisses
With your little yogi laying underneath you (my four-year-old still love this), keeping the Downward Dog shape and strength in your core and legs, inhale bend your elbows wide and come down to give your little yogi a kiss. Work not to come forward of your wrists, keep the angle of the body. As you exhale and return back to Dog Pose use the contraction of your inner belly and pelvic floor, along with strong legs to pull you back to starting point. Repeat these lovely kisses up to ten times, after which thank your little yogi for being a part of the fun.
Hop Along Yogi Core Play
Practice bracing your core and using your pelvic floor with your little one as a weight load. Bouncing your little one securely on your shins holding on to their hands or body ensuring a secure hold; depending on their age, at my house, what once was an eight pound weight is now a 30 pound load and sometimes doubled with my daughter Meredith along for the ride. Keep your torso steady and make sure your legs are moving, not your pelvis as you bounce; help heighten their senses with a song like:
Hop along yogi, hop along yogi, real, real slow
Hop along yogi, hop along yogi, real, real fast
Hop along yogi, hop along yogi step on the gas
After you step on the gas extend your legs and slide that little one in for a kiss and hug. Repeat this as many times as you can handle.
Holding your little yogi tight (or if they are older do this in a circle facing each other and add fun arm movements or sounds), step your feet to a modest straddle and gently turn your feet slightly outward. Contract your pelvic floor (especially for new moms) and keep your low back long and in neutral. Exhale bend your knees and contract your pelvic floor upward coming into Goddess Pose, inhale and return back to a straight leg position. Be excited and animated with your little ones to keep them interested and connected use simple words like down and up teaching them direction. Try this dynamic movement up to ten times welcoming heat and openness into your hips and core.
Forward Bend Giggle and Cuddle
A great bond with a back release, need I say more? With your little one in arms (your toddler lying below you, or in a circle as a group), co-contract your core and bending from the hips exhale, fold forward into Standing Forward Bend. As you fold toward the ground give your little yogi a kiss and snuggle. Holding them tight, inhale come back to standing. If necessary bend the knees and as you rise up, do not you’re your back muscles but rather feel your inner belly and legs lift you. With your older children you can make it fun and pretend to be rag dolls or puppets, you can paint the walls with paint brushes (your arms). Repeat this five to ten times feeling steady and stable as you move, with your older yogis come in for a group cuddle at the end to celebrate the fun.
Handstands for Everyone: Turn Me Upside-Down
Think about it, your little ones spent half of their in utro lives upside-down. This is a very natural position. Bringing more blood to the brain, increasing endorphin levels in the brain and sending signals to your nervous system to calm down and energize depending on what your body needs. It is a great combat against fear to use at an early age to instill confidence, strength and coordination. For Mom’s (or dad’s) put your little yogi in an appropriate space where they can see or sense you and connect with your inversion. Use a wall for safety, and up you go! Work to stay there for up to ten breaths, building self confidence, upper body strength and a connection with your little one. For your baby yogi, you can sit and with your knees bent let them lay back holding their ankles as they rest, face up, toward your feet. For older yogis simply lay them down and take hold of their lower legs and up-up-up they go. Don’t forget to praise them and get excited telling them simple phrases like upside-down yogi (or their name). Repeat this up to three times or until your arms can’t take it.
Movement should be playful, interactive and can truly be for the entire family. The next time you reach for your mat, invite your kids along for the ride!