Parenting Practices

If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion. —Dalai Lama

Catch more about these on my blog, in workshops, and in my forthcoming book, The Yoga of Parenting. Just remember start small and relish your successes. Find a good yoga teacher or video for you, develop a short enough practice to do regularly and then take the lessons off the mat, and bring them home.

* Yes, it takes practice. Yes, it feels good. And, yes, it works.

Pranayama/Centering: This is how you begin.

  • On the Mat: Moment-to-moment awareness of the breath synchronized with movement. With mindfulness you get to know yourself over and over again.
  • Off the Mat: Anywhere, anytime—driving, working in the kitchen, holding a crying baby—notice your breath, relax tension, feel your feet on the ground, and watch what happens next.

Compassion and Loving-Kindness for Self and Others: The root of health.

  • On the Mat: Breathe into any discomfort and breathe out a wish for peace, safety, and happiness—for your muscles, yourself, your child, and the world.
  • Off the Mat: When you experience difficulty, first notice your discomfort, breathe into your heart, and, with a soothing voice, name what you are feeling i.e. embarrassed, frustrated, ashamed and say exactly what you would to a dear friend if they were experiencing pain or difficulty. Acknowledge that all human beings make mistakes, feel embarrassed, frustrated, and ashamed from time to time. You are not alone. Watch what happens.

Pratapana / Warming Up and Slowing Down: The easiest stress buster there is.

  • On the Mat: Try slowing down your warm-ups and then your vinyasa flow; speed it up; notice the difference.
  • Off the Mat: When you realize that you are hurrying and stressed, ask yourself if it is necessary. If it isn’t, try to simply slow down your movements, (without admonishing yourself, you certainly don’t need one more thing to get down on yourself about) by half speed. It can be washing the dishes, changing a diaper, putting your child in the car…. See if you feel more relaxed, is there more delight in the action?

Tadasana/Taking a Stand: Find out what you believe in and let that move you.

  • On the Mat: With a firm base of support from the ground up, align your spine by engaging your core so that you move with fluidity. Set an intention for your practice.
  • Off the Mat: Discover your core values, they allow you to make parenting decisions with more ease because your beliefs, feelings, and actions align with authenticity.

Virabhadrasna/Warrior: The courage to face that which you would rather avoid.

  • On the Mat: Practice holding and deepening the poses in order to discover what your edge feels like.
  • Off the Mat: Ride instead of drown in the inevitable waves of emotion that parenting evokes. Breathe into emotional discomfort or discontent with loving-kindness toward yourself, notice resistance, breathe again and see what happens. Start with less intense emotions at first while you become familiar with the process.

Vinyasa/Flow: Grace happens.

  • On the Mat: Initiate, sustain, and transform. Each movement flows into the next, and breath and movement become a dance, a prayer, an unfolding. Notice your body as it comes out of a posture and feel the effects of the posture before moving into the next.
  • Off the Mat: Notice the transitions in your life, those moments in between, and see if they can become experiences on their own rather than something to get through in order to get someplace else. Getting in and out of the car, dressing and undressing your child, cleaning up. Life flows more easily when you are focused on what you are doing now rather than what is next.

Shavasana/Integration and Letting Go: Each out-breath is a small ending; each in-breath, a new start. Have faith, over and over again.

  • On the Mat: Use guided imagery, journaling, and deep relaxation to integrate your yoga practice and to deeply relax.
  • Off the Mat: Find time to let go and relax. Take time out, the bathroom is usually a good bet, and simply take three deep breaths to slow your heart and blood pressure. Do a body scan and release tension, you will feel less reactive and more responsive.