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.
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.
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!)
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.
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.
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.