Yoga for busy mums
Do you dream of doing a regular yoga practice with a bunch of cool women, in a beautiful studio, but life gets in the way and it just never happens?
As a yoga teacher and mum, I know my yoga practice makes me happier, calmer and more able to be truly present with my daughter. But a structured yoga practice takes time, energy and punctuality, which are all difficult for mums with little time on their hands.
It's ideal to make it to yoga classes and be guided by your favourite teacher, but I encourage my students to cultivate a daily yoga practice. You don't have to go to a studio or spend a long time doing yoga. Getting creative and adding poses throughout the day, doing intentional breath work, taking a mindful walk or making dinner while being mindful can all be our yoga. It's all about our intention and how we give intention to our actions.
As parents our energy is constantly expanding outwards and away from our inner core, which can leave us feeling fragmented and depleted. When we are in this state of scarcity we are more likely to react out of frustration. But by taking small, mindful steps every day, we bring our own energy back into ourselves, balancing our mind, body and spirit, and filling our own hearts. When our hearts are full we are expansive and everyone around us benefits in a positive way.
Here are some fresh ways to incorporate yoga into your day when time is not on your side.
Sun Salutations - an invigorating seven minute wakeup
Motherhood is an extremely challenging and highly rewarding time, making the time to do a few yoga poses often means including our bundles of joy or it just won't happen! Tummy time can be for mum as well as bub, using the locust pose below. Locust pose is classed as a baby back bend, although it may look simple it has a wide range of benefits and helps to strengthen the muscles and sacral iliac joint, and stabilise the pelvis.
The locust pose
- Start on your belly with the arms alongside the torso
- Press the pubic bone towards the floor to lengthen the lower back. Inwardly rotate the thighs.
- Exhale and lift the head, chest and torso up off the floor, reach strongly through the legs.
- Raise your arms parallel to the floor and stretch back actively through your fingertips.
- Imagine there's a weight pressing down on the backs of the upper arms, and push up toward the ceiling against this resistance.
- Press your scapulas firmly into your back.
- Gaze forward or slightly upward, being careful not to jut your chin forward and crunch the back of your neck.
- Keep the base of the skull lifted and the back of the neck long.
- Stay for 30 seconds to a minute, then release with an exhalation. Take a few breaths and repeat one or two times more if you like.
Potential therapeutic applications
- Lower back pain
As a new mum, your body needs to physically heal before you start to build strength again, so please bear this in mind for the first six weeks after birth before starting any physical practice.
Warrior poses are great for grounding and reminding ourselves that we are strong and resilient - you can do this with bub for some added arm intensity and fun flight time!
Either step through from downward dog or start from standing:
- Turn your left foot in 45 to 60 degrees to the right
- Align the right heel with the left heel.
- Exhale and rotate your torso to the right, squaring the front of your pelvis as much as possible with the front edge of your mat.
- As the left hip point turns forward, press the head of the left femur back to ground the heel.
- Move your tailbone toward the floor and lift your upper torso.
- With your left heel firmly anchored to the floor, exhale and bend your right knee over the right ankle so the shin is perpendicular to the floor.
- If you're not holding baby, lift the arms up alongside the ears, lengthening through the base of the skull
- Stay for 30 seconds to a minute.
- Take a few breaths, then turn the feet to the left and repeat for the same length.
- Stretches the chest and lungs, shoulders and neck, belly, groin (psoas)
- Strengthens the shoulders and arms, and the muscles of the back
- Strengthens and stretches the thighs, calves, and ankles
Mindfulness in action
I highly encourage every parent to cultivate a meditation practice, even if it is just 10 minutes in the morning and at night. I believe you will feel greater clarity and peace and it will be easier to infuse this practice into the day while doing seemingly mundane chores. The more ritualistic we become with these practices the more we keep doing them.
Here are some suggestions for incorporating your practice into each day:
- Every time you are stopped at a red light, do your pelvic floor exercises
- Try hanging out the washing and feel the ground beneath you and focus on long smooth breaths in the fresh air.
- When you're in the kitchen use the bench to help support you in a balancing yoga pose.
- On a walk make sure you sit in nature and just listen to its sounds and feel the earth under you.
Legs up the wall
Legs up the wall is my all time favourite pose. It puts you in this dream-like state and it replenishes your energy levels. To get into it is a little awkward, but it's so worthwhile. I sit up next to the wall side on and roll onto my back, swinging my legs up the wall.
- Let your arms fall to the floor, palms up, at about a 45 degree angle.
- Close your eyes and breathe. Stay five, 10, 20 minutes, whatever works for you, if you only have one minute, do it for one. You can also do this hanging over the sofa, and if you have older kids they will love to join in. Time for yourself
Taking time for yourself is essential, my home practice often ends up with a dog, child or both on the mat with me. My daughter is now nine and has grown up watching me do yoga. She joins in with me and it can be such a bonding time and I also think that it is really important that she grows up watching me take care of my physical, emotional and spiritual needs with this practice. Sometimes if I'm stressed she will even say, ‘mummy I think you need to go and do some yoga.' How wonderful is it that our children can see us having these tools to cope with life and can develop them too. Namamaste!
*A big thank you to the gorgeous Abby-lee Childs and her son Cass for the mama and baby shots.
Nikki Ralston has been working with the human body for over 15 years. She devised the Ralston Method, which blends together elements of hatha, vinyasa, precision alignment and mindfulness teachings. She is also the owner of Urban Ashram in Auckland.