Yoga for Parents

by Ingrid Schaller

It was a week of unexpecteds — the death of a dear friend, a child taken sick, the family van broken down — all layered over the nonstop everyday responsibilities of being a parent in a marriage in which my husband is frequently out of town. The idea of wedging yoga sessions into the mix seemed impossible. And yet I did it — and not for the reasons you might think.

As a yoga instructor, I know that yoga struggles against the image of perfection — perfect bodies in perfect arrangement. It also struggles against the image of indulgence — that it is a treat, rather than a treatment. My schedule is no more (and in many cases much less) complicated than most parents. And yet, like many parents, I find myself pushing until I’m exhausted, short-tempered, and sometimes ill. Our sense of duty whispers against giving ourselves any opportunity for rejuvenation: A yoga class? That’s just one more commitment. Who will be with the kids? Can I even do yoga?

Last question first: Yes you can. Despite its image, yoga is not about turning yourself into a  human pretzel. If you are a true novice, seek out a beginner series provided by a credentialed instructor. Things to watch for: Is the class reasonably paced? Are the poses instructed, or merely demonstrated? Are you given options to make the pose easier or more difficult to match your ability? If possible, try more than one instructor.

But what about that time commitment? As a parent, I can tell you that the energy I recover from maintaining a regular yoga practice refuels my body and mind, but it has also helped me broaden and deepen my relationship with my children. Once you learn a few basic poses, you don’t need a ninety-minute session to make the yoga “work.” Spending as little as fifteen minutes on a few poses can be just what your body (and mind) needs. Explain to your children what you are doing. Allow them to participate, or allow them a routine activity: “While Mom does yoga, you can look quietly at books, or listen to audiobooks, or you can try the poses too.” My six-year-old has come to understand this routine; my teenager rolls her eyes at it, but she also knows a day when Mom does yoga is a better day.

I still have weeks that are too short and too full and have me running around emanating anything but some groovy “inner peace” vibe. But now I know that when life overflows with “unexpecteds,” a regular yoga practice allows me to navigate more smoothly, recover more quickly, and give even more energy to my family, my friends, and the causes I care for.

Currently working toward her 500-hour teacher certification in yoga therapy, Ingrid Schaller teaches beginning yoga classes at the Yoga Center of Eau Claire and will lead a teen girls and moms yoga class this summer in Fall Creek.

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