Many of you know I have twin toddlers, and while I love them more than the Earth itself, sometimes finding that little bit of time just for me is rare, and when they finally go to bed I am often too cream-crackered to move. Finding time for my daily practise has been a struggle, I won’t lie. Seeing ladies on instagram/facebook/magazines with their ONE precious small person in a lovely joint yoga pose fills me with a sort of… just a teensy weensy bit of envy?
Where to start?
If your little ones are old enough to want to try yoga, then this book ‘Yoga for Children’ is a lovely thing to have on the coffee table. My boys like to pick it up, pick a page and copy the lovely colour photos. You can also string a few poses together to make a simple story, such as a caterpillar who turned into a butterfly. I am encouraging my boys to start learning new poses as it will be good for their bodies as they grow, even if they don’t understand all the strange sanskrit and breathing techniques, let alone what they are for. So I rarely practise on my own any more. You can’t force anyone to do yoga, so I am trying to practise in front of them in the hope that good habits wear off, and they do join in. Between throwing toy fire engines at the dog and colouring in my windows with crayon, that is.
It was a little harder while they were very tiny and needed constant attention, but it is still possible. So here are my top tips for mummies with one or more small person to watch over while attempting to fit in some yoga:
1. If it doesn’t happen the way you want, don’t stress. So they came and jumped on you mid-warrior and knocked you over? It’s only because they love you. Laugh it off and try again. Never let yourself get cross, it will defeat the purpose.
2. If you can manage it after bedtime, do it then. Morning yoga for me would mean getting up at 4:30am, and that is NEVER going to happen in a million years. Gentle bedtime yoga has a lot of restorative benefits and stress-relieving properties, so don’t rule it out even if you are hankering for a strong flow workout. Evening might not be the best time for a workout that leaves you too full of energy to sleep, but keeping up with your yin asana practise for flexibility will keep you in the habit.
3. Speak while you do it. This may mean your ujjayi goes out the window but as you talk yourself through the poses, little ones will pick up on it, learn a new body part or two, maybe even have a go themselves. Mine just love to copy me.
4. Remember, practise mindfulness, it’s not forever. They will grow and when they are great hairy teenagers, you can have more time to yourself, but appreciate them while they are small and cuddly. Teenagers hate their mum kissing them in front of their friends. Do it while they still cuddle back.
5. Keep them busy. If you can give them something else quiet to do. Colouring books, reading, bricks… just don’t step on a lego. Easier said than done I know, particularly when they are feeling curious and just want to know what Mummy is doing. Another good time for me is meal time. While they are in their high chairs busy learning the best way round to hold a fish-finger I can be seen practising my tree-pose. Which brings me to…
6. Little and often. It will be hard to fit in a full 90 minutes without something yelling for their potty or a cracker of a mini-fight breaking out. As I am writing this, one of mine is trying to steal my memory stick and close my screen. (*breathe*) Taking 5 minutes here and there to practise a couple of easy poses all adds up. Plus it will keep you limber all day.
7. Cut an old mat in half. Give it to them. Children love responsibility and having their very own child sized yoga mat makes them feel grown up. Let them have some permanent markers and draw on it so they can really make it their own, you might even get ten minutes uninterrupted asana while they colour.
8. If they are old enough get them to count for you. Ask them to count the seconds for you as you hold poses, or the number of sun salutations you have completed. Numeracy as well as physical exercise, how good is that?
9. Try a Cosmic Kids video on YouTube. See below, Jaime works yoga poses into colourful stories and songs to keep them entertained while you get your yoga fix. You can find out more here.
10. Remember that yoga is not all about asana practise. You can practise your breathing techniques and mindfulness pretty much at any time.
So there you have it. If you have tried and failed, try again. Once it becomes a habit you’ll find it hard to give up. Good luck!