Last year, I took my own advice and began a regular yoga practice. My schedule only allows one day a week, so most Thursday mornings I make it a priority to spend time on the mat. It was not until I took a few weeks off that I noticed what the yoga was doing for me. Besides the flexibility and balance, I noticed that the yoga was giving me a sense of calm, relief and acceptance. I have always been one to exercise for stress relief but no other form of exercise did what yoga did for me. It was a way to connect my thoughts to my body, and literally "leave it all on the mat."
I invited my friend and registered yoga instructor, Joanna Israel, to discuss her experience with yoga and how it has influenced her ability to become a better mother. Her article is below:
As I sit down to write this blog post, I have to laugh to myself – am I even qualified to write about how yoga has helped me become a better parent? Over the past 24 hours I’ve laughed, cried, screamed at my kids, made them go to activities they didn’t want to, and poured one too many glasses of wine as a result! In the moment, I felt my parenting skills and how I handled things were definitely sub-par. As I thought about it more this morning, I realized that using the principles I learned in yoga was exactly how I was able to get through that experience and other difficult parenting times.
It’s all about breathing, acceptance, being present and beginning again.
Yoga teaches us that everything begins with the breath – being aware of our breath, connecting our breath with movement, and focusing on our breath to get through difficult postures on our mats. Using our breath on the mat is training for difficult situations off the mat. Just breathe through it. During my difficult day yesterday, I did breathe through it, and I got through it the best that I could. The next time you are in a difficult parenting situation, whether it is a rebellious teenager or you are stuck in traffic and late for daycare, try it. Take a few deep breaths and become more aware. It will make a difference, I promise!
In yoga, we are also taught to accept ourselves just as we are. Through the practice of yoga, we can work to improve specific postures and balance, but we also learn to accept where our bodies and emotions are at that given moment. We are not perfect, and that is ok. We need to accept ourselves where we are, as broken as we may feel. The Japanese even have a word for this – wabi sabi. It means that beauty comes with that which is imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete. Reflecting upon that moment with my kids yesterday, I definitely could have been more patient and calmer, and maybe I could have made different decisions. But, I recognize that I am not perfect, accept the decisions I made, and then move forward.
On our yoga mats, we are taught to focus on the here and now – the current posture, the current way we are feeling. However, parenting is full distractions and requires us to multitask throughout the day. Being present becomes difficult if not impossible. It is often said that depression results from not letting go of the past and anxiety a result of not letting go of the future. The here and now, though, results in contentment. I try to be present for my kids and without the distractions of my phone, my email or a tv show. Some days are better than others, but I start each day with that intention.
In some yoga classes, we are guided through a series of postures designed to challenge our strength or balance. Oftentimes, our bodies give in and we fall out of the pose. The mantra we are told though, is to begin again, persevere. Again, as we leave our mats and our yoga studios, it is a lesson we should take with us. Yesterday my parenting skills needed work; I felt as though I didn’t do my best. Today is a new day. When I woke up this morning and started my day, I gave myself permission to leave yesterday’s experience in the past and begin again. I will breathe through the difficult stuff, accept that I am doing my best and work on being present for my children.