When I lived in New Mexico, there were no yoga classes in sight. That was okay, because even though I'd been a practitioner for years, I still thought yoga consisted of mostly bland stretching exercises. You know, the kind of thing to do after a run. Then a friend gave me a Kristin McGee yoga dvd. I was officially inducted into the world of vinyasa yoga—and, thankfully, there was a dvd player in sight.
Then my husband and I moved to the Philadelphia area, the land of many successful yoga studios. I took a few wonderful vinyasa classes at the local Y. Unfortunately, I traveled constantly with my husband for his job, making my yoga class-taking sporadic at best. There were many, many times where the only things I had were a hotel towel and my imagination.
I can’t tell you how thankful I am that I learned early on in my practice not to depend on classes or even dvd’s—although Kristin’s did change my life and my view of yoga. When I became a new mom, I had already learned to be flexible on my mat (pun intended). Here are five helpful hints I’ve discovered.
1. Don’t have a time frame. Get it out of your head that yoga consists of an hour of asanas. It doesn’t. Yoga is all about connecting to something much deeper than yourself, and you can’t set an alarm clock for that. Unroll your mat, even if all you do is three rounds of sun salutations. I promise those sun salutations will usually lead to more. It’s also okay if they don’t, because you’ll still feel better.
2. Play music. Your favorite songs will likely lure you to practice on your mat—even if you’re lacking motivation because you’re exhausted (check) or depressed (for most moms, at least at times, check). Tell yourself that you’ll do sun salutes and some warrior poses to the tune of your favorite band. I think you’ll be surprised at the energy you find when Bono’s crooning to you that its’ a beautiful day.
3. Bring baby on the mat with you. Depending on your baby’s age, you might be laughing at me right now. When my daughter was young enough to just lie there, I’d place her at the top of my mat and kiss her baby forehead as I lowered halfway to chaturanga. She’d be giggling like mad by the time I lifted into upward facing dog. Trust me, there’s nothing like doing yoga with a smiling baby. When your baby is old enough to never sit still, yet young enough to not be able to practice with you, it starts to get tricky. Stand on your head. Seriously. I actually got much more into inversions and arm balancing during this baby stage—which we’re currently in—because she laughs at me when I do headstands. Obviously, please make sure that you and your baby are both safe, but do experiment. Who knows, maybe you’ll both wind up giggling on your mat.
4. Take time every week to give your baby to someone else and get on your mat. It’s not selfish. You’re teaching your baby that you are a priority. You’re teaching your baby the value of self-worth. From my standpoint, I’m a much nicer person when I get off my mat. This is a plus for everyone in the household. For me, this is often as simple as having my daughter play with my mom or husband in the other room while I lock myself in our bedroom and crank out as much of a yoga practice as I can that day. Again, even ten minutes is worth it.
5. Get off your mat. Yes, you read that correctly. If you’re a Type A, obsessive personality like me, you’ve been getting on your mat throughout your pre and postnatal stages. Sometimes taking two, or even three, days off is just what the yogi ordered. When you do hop back on your mat—which you will—you’ll likely have renewed energy and passion for why you do what you do—which is practice yoga. So get going.