The Yoga of Parenthood
Parenting is not for the faint of heart. It’s a challenge and every day is different. There is no manual or instruction book. I am not sure what kind of parent I would be without yoga. In fact, I firmly believe I would not be a parent at all. Ten years ago, my husband and I really wanted to have a baby. But it wasn’t until I gave up my job as a TV news producer and became a yoga teacher that it happened.
Parenting is truly the greatest joy, but the most difficult ‘job’ in the world. I, for one, need all the tools I can get to negotiate this path. Sometimes it is a simple asana to bring me clarity, other times it is yogic philosophy. Even a few meditative breaths go a long way. The beauty of parenthood, though, is like yoga – there is no right or wrong.
Perhaps a few of these tips can help you get through the day as a Mom or Dad:
1) Strike a pose (with or without your child): There are so many to choose from but a simple Downward Facing Dog may do the trick. Adho Mukha Svanasana decreases anxiety and tension. Plus it makes you stronger. Children love this pose, too. You could even do it side by side, without a mat.
2) Take a breath: Dirga Pranayama (3-part breath) is a great meditative breath and increases lung capacity. It forces you to stop and just breathe. Place a hand on your heart and a hand on your belly and breathe into the three chambers of your lungs separately. It feels like a wave filling up and falling away. Or you could take the silly – ‘I need a release’ approach with Simhasana (Lion’s breath). Take a deep breath in, open your mouth, stick your tongue out and exhale completely with a ‘ha’ sound. Trust me, this one feels great!
3) Words of wisdom: Recently my 9-year old son, Ben, wrote the Four Gates of Speech on a poster board for the wall of his bedroom. I will often refer to these basic guidelines for help communicating with each other. Before we speak we should ask in our minds and hearts: Is it truthful? Is it necessary to say? Is it the appropriate time? Can it be said in a kind way?
4) Remember the Yamas: The very first limb of yoga reminds us the strongest way to be in relationship with others in society. Isn’t that our role as parents? Prepare our children for the world? For me, the first of the Yamas is the most important in parenting. Ahimsa. Practice loving kindness to all, including you. Parents are quick to judge themselves and ‘beat themselves up’. Love yourself through your learning.
Learn to love the process of parenting. Yoga and parenting are more about the ‘how we got here’ then the ‘we are here.’ There is no final destination and no finish line. There is lots of Bhakti (love) and Breath along the way.