Making the decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body. —Elizabeth Stone

To become a parent is to be overwhelmed. By intense love and the instinct to protect. By the sheer demands of a small child 24/7. Suddenly you’re someone’s mother or father. It changes everything. Forever.

IMG_07071Parent advice books tell you how you should act. Calm and confidant. What they don’t teach you is how to calm down and feel confident. They tell you 100 different ways to “get your child to sleep through the night.” But they don’t teach you how to know deep in your bones what’s right for you and your child tonight. There are many great parent advice books and web sites out there, that is not what you will find here.

Part parent support, part yoga, part loving-kindness, The Yoga of Parenting is a program designed to help you integrate the best practices of mindful yoga and self-compassion with the latest mind-science research to transform the way you parent from the inside out. The focus is on your relationship with yourself first, and from that grows an improved relationship with your child. With practice, you become more aware, less reactive, gentler, and more compassionate toward yourself and others. If you want to learn more about self-compassion or test your own self-compassion level go to self-compasssion.org. When you practice The Yoga of Parenting, you feel more confident because your decisions grow out of your deeply held core values. You tolerate the discomforts of uncertainty, self-judgment, frustration, and overwhelm. You savor the joys and pleasures of simple moments.

We come onto our yoga mat with expectations, hopes, and fear. We expect our body to stretch and bend in sync with class instruction. We hope we’ll feel better afterward. We fear that we won’t. When we practice yoga, we learn to breathe and move and watch these thoughts and feelings as they arise and recede, coming back to the present moment with awareness of sensation, breath, and tenderness.

With practice we can bring this same awareness home. This allows us to accept rather than resist difficult emotions, to separate intention from outcome, to send loving-kindness to ourselves in difficult moments. When we find ourselves in the grocery store with a screaming baby, we take a breath, send kindness to ourselves and our child, and then proceed (probably out the door!). When we have a toddler who refuses to use the toilet, we turn our focus to our intention—helping our child to feel more capable—rather than on the outcome: Dry Pants NOW!—there is far more chance of success.

Most important, The Yoga of Parenting will help you avoid the tyranny of perfectionism and accept reality with loving-kindness. You can be an imperfectly good parent and raise perfectly good children. And don’t forget to savor the pleasure and joy when it comes.