Staying active while mothering full time is not an easy task. Especially when you’re still navigating the fresh territory of having more than one child!
I am excited to share some easy ways of incorporating your baby (or kids) into your yoga practice. Not only is yoga a great way to get exercise, it’s also a wonderful way to teach your children essential tools such as body awareness and mindfulness.
First, we always start out with breathing (pranayama) and om (aum). Come to a comfortable seat on the floor (sukhasana). Feel your sit bones connecting with the earth and lengthen the spine.
Take a few nice big deep belly breaths, inhaling through the nose and expanding the belly. Exhaling through the nose, retracting the naval point toward the spine. Encourage your little one to do it along with you! Allow the eyes to close if desired.
Now inhale again and as you exhale this time, release through the mouth with a long resonate sound of “om.” “Om” is said to be the sacred sound of creation, or the sound of the universe. It’s vibration resides within all living things, and when we chant “om” together it brings about a sense of oneness and connection.
You may notice that your baby might have some kind of reaction to the “om”, either smiling and giggling or even getting sad and crying. (My own baby makes the sweetest pouty face when we “om”, it is so preciously heartbreaking!)
This happens because babies are much more sensitive to vibrational energy than us adults. So I find that they either really love it or don’t like it at all. Don’t be concerned if your baby is indifferent though.
Here are 7 fun and easy yoga poses to add to your daily routine:
1. Butterfly (Baddha Konasana)
In a seated position, press the bottoms of the feet together and let the knees open wide. Have your baby seated facing away from you, in the open space between your heels and your sit bones. Hold your little one with your right arm and inhale as you reach the left arm up, leaning your torso over to the right side. Exhale switch arms and do the opposite side. Repeat a few times with your breath.
2. Plank (Kumbhakasana)
This is a wonderful pose to tone abdominal muscles, while also strengthening the arms and the spine. Lay your baby face up on your mat. Place your hands on each side of his/her shoulders, so that you are looking at each other face to face. (Making sure your hands are still YOUR shoulder width apart.) Stretch the legs out long behind you and come up to balance on the pads of the feet.
It is VERY important to continue breathing in this posture, but easy to forget! So if you find yourself holding it in, just come back to your breath; inhaling through the nose and exhaling through the nose.
For optimal positioning: keep head in alignment with the spine, relax shoulders down away from the ears, draw the shoulder blades back together, core engaged, tailbone tucked, and the feet are energized. This creates a long line of energy from the crown of the head down to the heels of the feet.
Talk with your little one, make a funny face, or sing a song to help distract your mind from the physical sensations. Hold this as long as desired, and if you need a breath, simply bring the knees down to the mat to rest. You may even rest in child’s pose (balasana) if you so desire.
3. Upward Facing Dog (Urdhva Mukha Svanasana) & Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
From plank, curl the toes under and lower the belly down toward the floor as you open your heart toward the sky. Lift the chin up toward the ceiling and draw the shoulders away from the ears.
To come into down dog, slowly lift the hips back up, flip the feet, and press the torso back toward the thighs to create a V shape. find your own rhythm in flowing back and forth through these postures with your breath, inhaling and opening to upward facing dog, exhaling and pressing back to downward facing dog.
4. Boat (Navasana)
(*Please modify or avoid this posture if you are recovering from a cesarean.)
Come back to your seat with the feet placed out in front of you and have your child give you a little hug, with their seat on your belly, their legs wrapped around you, and their cute little head resting at your heart. Slowly begin to lift the legs up, knees bent, so that you are balancing on your sit bones. Reach the arms out in front of you toward your legs, on each side of your little one so that your hands are available to keep them stable if needed. Continue balancing, engaging the core abdominal muscles. As you press the sit bones into the earth, lengthen the spine and lift up out through the crown of the head.
To modify, grab onto the back of the thighs for less intensity. You may eventually work toward straightening the legs. To release, simply place the feet back onto the floor. As always, remember your breath. Repeat this several times.
5. Bridge (Setu Bhandasana)
From your boat pose, with your child still hugging your chest, place the feet flat on the mat. Lay down onto your back (hold onto your little one), knees bent. Make sure your feet are placed firm on the mat directly beneath your knees, press into them as you slowly lift the hips up high. Continue your breath as you hold this posture, or give your little one a ride up and down by lowering and lifting the hips. And meanwhile you’ll be toning those gluts.
6. Chair (Utkatasana)
Come to a standing position on your mat with your feet a little less than hip width apart. Hold your little one in your arms in whatever way is most comfortable for you both. Gently lower the hips back as if you are sitting down into a chair. Be sure to keep your weight evenly distributed in the feet, and that the knees don’t bend past the ankles. Hold the posture for a few breaths and release by coming back up to standing. Repeat this a few times, challenging yourself by sitting a little bit deeper and holding a little longer each time.
7. Tree (Vrksasana)
With your little one still in your arms, bring your weight into one foot. Root into the earth and find your balance, as you lift the opposite foot and place it at the standing foot’s ankle. Feel free to use the wall for support if needed, and especially be mindful while holding your little one! If you are comfortable and steady here you may continue on, or simply allow this to be the extent of your posture.
If desired, place the foot at the calf or thigh (making sure to avoid the knee). Press the foot into the thigh (or calf) as you press the thigh (or calf) into the foot for equal and opposing energy to create a strong and solid foundation. This is your trunk. Find a focal point in front of you (drishti) that is not moving. If your little one is comfortable on your hip, you may place them on the hip of your standing leg and hold them with one arm. Reach the other arm up to grow your tree branches. The wind might come to shake up your leaves, but you always come back to your center and find yourself standing strong, tall, and proud. Slowly lower the lifted leg when ready and repeat on the opposite side.
To close your practice—come back to a comfortable seat (sukhasana) with your eyes closed. Inhale deep and make one last long resonate sound of “om” together as you exhale.
And as I like to say to my fellow mama Warriors;
MAMASTE: the Divine Mother within me honors and acknowledges the Divine Mother within you. When we find ourselves in that same place of love, of light, of peace, and of truth—WE ARE ONE.