As a parent of two young kids in Toronto, I feel lucky to have access to a wide variety of family fitness initiatives, parent and tot classes, creative kids programs, daycares, diverse schooling options, and summer camps. Our mailbox gets inundated with flyers for amazing new sessions on a daily basis. I try to manage our family schedule with a mix of: programs for the kids, things we can do as a family, and fitness or creative pursuits that are just for my husband and/or me.
But one thing I’ve discovered is that it’s rare to find all of those things in one place. I’m not one to over-schedule my kids and I try to coordinate programs with both my kids together or within close proximity, but I still spend a lot of time traipsing all over the city between one family activity or another. And my own—and my husband’s—workouts or creative pursuits require an entirely separate schedule.
Recently, I spent an afternoon as a guest at the Prosserman JCC in North Toronto, and the very first thing that struck me—aside from the amazing facilities—was how many programs, for all ages and stages of family life, are available in the one location.
The focus on family fitness and community at the Prosserman JCC is reflected in the wide variety of children and family programs they offer, the family events, the educational sessions for parents, and seniors, and through the fitness and health centre initiatives. The facility also boasts a full daycare, preschool, and kindergarten program housed in a large, bright, and colourful space. On top of this, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that a very busy sports league for kids, youths, and adults also exists.
All it takes is one look at the children and family program schedule to see the diversity of classes offered at the centre. The Prosserman JCC has developed incredible programs—my personal favourite is Glowga (Glow in the Dark Yoga mixed with hip-hop dance!)—but they also complement their own sessions by partnering with well-known companies in the community, like Pedalheads and Whimz, to run classes within the centre.
I had just missed a Total Body Sculpt class when I arrived, but I had a chance to workout at the fitness centre. The change rooms are fresh and clean, and the gym has all the state-of-the-art cardio and weight machines you’d expect in a newer facility. As I was running on the treadmill, all I could think about was how awesome it would be to drop the kids off at a class like the Great Treasure Hunt while I worked out or took one of the group exercise classes. And another amazing bonus: if you have a child enrolled in the daycare, preschool, or kindergarten program, you get a Fitness and Health membership for free.
If fitness isn’t your thing, there is a ceramics centre, a cooking centre, and a variety of creative arts classes for all ages. There is also the FUN ZONE, a room full of books, toys and activities where parents can play with their young kid(s) before a class begins, while waiting to pick up a sibling from their class, or on a rainy day when you need to get out of the house. Finally, there are numerous lounges and multi-media rooms, where people can hang out, attend a mom’s group or participate in one of the many workshops the centre offers.
Another big draw for me—as a parent—is that the Prosserman JCC holds birthday parties, which you can base on themes from the different classes they offer. (Glowga would be my first pick!) They offer everything from puppet or SuperHero parties to In the Mix parties (where kids create and film their own dance and music videos, and get to take home their video on a USB key bracelet—so cool). AND with all the parties, the JCC will coordinate everything for you, right down to invitations, food, decorating the room and ordering the cake. You just have to show up. (Note: major parental happiness factor right there)
My last stop on the tour of the centre was the head office of The Jack and Pat Kay Centre Camp. This unique summer camp has been running for over 25 years and has recently expanded to two locations, in Toronto and Vaughan. Having just started my summer camp planning, I was impressed by the quality of the camp programming and the enthusiasm of the Camp Director, Phil Faibish. He attended the camp himself as a child and a counselor, and his passion and commitment to continue providing amazing summer experiences for the campers is evident.
Phil’s experience at The Jack and Pat Kay Centre Camp seems to embody what the Prosserman JCC is all about: providing excellent programming that appeals to families of all ages while creating a diverse community that reflects the city we live in.
With a name like Fitzsimmons, I’m clearly not Jewish, and wanted to make sure that I could still sign up for all of the amazing programs at the centre. Thankfully I was assured that this is a place that is inclusive, caters to the community, and has a variety of offerings that people from all ages and walks of life can enjoy.
Live in the Toronto area? You could win!
YMC and Prosserman JCC are giving away a Family Fitness & Fun Prize Pack valued at $1,100!
One month Family membership to the Prosserman JCC health club
Two weeks for your child to attend The Jack and Pay Kay Centre Camp
One family and child program
I’m frequently asked how I fit my own yoga practice back into my life after having kids. Frankly, for me, it was a struggle. I’ve always joked that it’s lucky I teach yoga, or I would never have had time on the mat. And that my downward dog often involves a child crawling under me. I don’t think there is one way of getting back to the mat that will work for everyone; there is no single “answer.” But I do have a couple of suggestions for how to come back to your yoga practice after having kids.
1. Start Slowly and Listen to Your Body
Give yourself permission to be a beginner again. Your body will need you to adjust your practice according to how you’re feeling on any given day. Instead of trying a long sequence, set a goal to do a few of your favourite postures, my "happy hamstrings" sequence, or perhaps a few sun salutations each day. Gradually build on your sequence, and you’ll slowly be able to add a few more postures or lengthen your practice until you’re ready for a full sequence of poses.
2. Getting Back to Class
On the Weekends: Figure out a weekend class you can sign up for that would fit into a good time slot for the family. When we just had one child, my husband and daughter attended a daddy/daughter gym class while I went off to yoga (so they had bonding time and I had guilt-free me-time). With two kids, we either schedule daddy-at-the-park time or we plan playdates with the neighbours’ kids. If your kids are still napping, plan a class on the weekends during naptime.
During the Week: If you’re not exhausted during the week, grab a girlfriend and sign up for an evening class after the kids are in bed. It’s a great way to do something for yourself while having time with friends. (Hint: you’re less likely to bail if you’re going with someone else!)
3. Develop a Home Practice
If classes aren’t an option for you, and you feel you’re ready to get back to a full sequence, find a selection of yoga podcasts or DVDs that you enjoy. Right after the kids have gone to bed, take advantage of the quiet time and roll out your mat. One of the best ways to wind down at the end of the day is to do a yoga or a relaxation practice before bed.
4. Go Private
If you have the space, organize a small group of other mums and have an instructor come to your house. If it’s during the week, you might hire a sitter or take turns looking after the kids in another room. If it’s in the evening, plan the class to start after the kids have gone to bed. Private yoga instruction can be very reasonable if you have a few people to share the cost.
5. Shift Your Perception
Finally, shifting your perception of your yoga practice is important. Just as life is constantly changing and evolving, so is our yoga practice. At times, we will move close to it and practice often, and at other times we may move away from it. But as long as we know it is important, we will always find our way back to the mat.