integrating yoga into your life

“The stories you tell yourself, about yourself, are fiction that distract you from getting the laundry folded when you’d rather be meditating. Silly yogini.  Meditate while folding the laundry.”

-Candice Garret, “The Mama Sutras

Parenthood = busy lifestyle

If you are reading this and you’re thinking, I could be doing yoga right now, it’s true. You even could be doing yoga and reading this at the same time. But I know many of you are thinking that you have to make that choice: should I sleep or meditate? Go for a walk or do yoga? Take a shower or have some time to myself? (and many of us feel like a shower counts as time to ourselves)

It’s definitely important to take out focused time for ourselves, if and when we can. I fully realize the difficulty of that for parents of all different lifestyles: single parents, stay-at-home moms and dads, and working parents. It might be easier if you have a nanny, daycare, relatives nearby, or even an occasional babysitter, but the fact is that kids have a lot of needs and so parenthood generally equals a busy lifestyle.

By the way, busy doesn’t necessarily have to mean frantic. It’s totally fine to be busy; in fact, sometimes trying to squeeze in yoga and self-care makes life feel a little busier because making time for yourself can feel like an extra thing to add to the to-do list.

So, here’s my bright idea: let’s shift some of those to-do items on a to-be list. In other words, rather than fixate on what you want to do in a day, maybe frame it this way: “How do I want to be? How do I want to feel?” Let’s say you think you should add a 5-minute yoga sequence to your to-do list every day. So you rush around every morning before the baby’s nap so you can get some chores done before he falls asleep so that you can get some quiet practice time as he snoozes.

Then it dawns on you that once you make it to the yoga mat, you feel frazzled. You’ve checked the to-do item off your list, but at the expense of being in a frenzy. 

Instead, think of the feeling you want to create. Sure, you want to do yoga, but why? How do you want to feel? Happy? Calm? Energized? Grounded? And if you get stressed trying to make it happen, how can you ensure that you come away from your practice feeling more calm, grounded, energized, and happy (or however you’d like to feel) and maintain that throughout your day?

Choosing ‘and:’ more than multitasking

My answer to maintaining the calming yet energizing effects of yoga is to do more. Not to do more things in your day, but to do more ‘yoga’ throughout your day.

What exactly do I mean?

I don’t mean hitting the yoga mat more often. I mean that we can choose to do yoga AND complete the many mundane tasks of the day at the same time.

Now, I know that multitasking gets so much praise and honestly I don’t generally advocate it. As moms, our attention already gets split so much during the day by every little need and task. How refreshing it is to be able to do something with full concentration! Even something I don’t love to do (like clean the bathroom or wash the dishes) feels luxurious when someone can take the baby for 10-20 minutes so I can do that thing uninterrupted.

But...sometimes we can bring a skill we learned on the yoga mat or during an uninterrupted moment into a daily task so that we practice slowing down, relaxing the body even while it’s in motion, and focusing the mind. 

Think of it as having a yoga moment, or a sort of mini session while you fold laundry or wash dishes or feed the baby. It’s a way to make what you learned on your yoga mat practical. After all, what’s the point of getting all zenned out and limber as a noodle after a one-hour yoga sesh if you’re flipping out a few hours later? (pssst...I’m talking to myself, too! I’m on this path with you:)

This Week’s Mini Practice

Every Tuesday I’ll be sharing some tips on little ways we can adjust our bodies, breath, and perceptions in just moments to bring some yoga practice off our mats and into our lives. This is the intro post for this series, so the following posts will be much shorter (so as not to interrupt your busy day!).

So without further ado, here’s our mini practice for this week:

Whatever you’re doing, pause and put your hand on your belly. If you were doing something hands free, perhaps you can continue what you were doing while you do this. Otherwise, pause what you were doing for a minute or less to take three deep breaths, allowing your hand to move out toward the end of each inhale as you fill your lungs and relax your belly. Think of how you fill a glass of water, from bottom to top and imagine that your breath is like the water and your lungs like the glass; in other words, let your breath fill the bottom of your lungs first (which will relax the diaphragm down and relax the belly out), then sense the rest of the breath as it fills the lungs from the bottom up to the collarbones. Let the exhale be effortless, but see that you relax the chest first, then the ribs, then the belly as it gently pulls back into its original position.

Here’s a little video you can follow along and get a sense for how slow your breath can be, yet how brief this moment is. How do you feel after three slow, deep breaths?