Brace yourselves, this is a long post, because it’s a topic I’m super passionate about: yoga. Specifically, yoga for moms and how it contributes to mental, emotional, and physical health that we moms are often so run dry on. We’ve seen how beneficial yoga is for babies, now let’s look at making it happen for us moms. So grab your yoga mat and let’s get to it!
10 Ways to Incorporate Yoga Into Your Daily Life
1. Start your day off with yoga. Before you even get out of bed do a simple child’s pose or cat/cow. If you are even more motivated, do a couple of sun saluations and literally greet the sun with yoga!
2. While in the car driving, you can chant Om or Sat Nam. This is great to do if you are feeling rushed and scattered. It’s also a double wammy of distracting a fussy baby/toddler.
3. I usually to a modified down dog in the shower, like I do at the couch sometimes. I also usually roll my shoulders and stretch my neck, by dropping my ear towards my shoulder on both sides, while the hot water beats down on my muscles.
4. Play a yoga game with your little one. My daughter likes to help me stretch these days by pressing on my back as I do a forward bend to reach my toes. Or she likes to crawl underneath me and play peek a boo while I do Down Dog.
5. While I am laying down and nursing her to sleep, I like to roll and stretch my ankles. I point and flex my feet several times. Often times this is called “pumping” your feet, and it is a great way to increase circulation to your feet and help your lymphatic system work better (which is what helps take out toxins in your body), if you are pregnant or just tired and on your feet all day, read: All Moms. Sometimes if I can finagle it, I will even bring both my feet into the air and do legs up the wall pose.
6. Before I sit down at the computer to write, I stretch my wrists in all directions. I also roll my neck and shoulders.
7. If I pass a door way, I try and stop and stretch my shoulders by facing the door way and putting my hand on the wall then slowly turning my body away from the wall.
8. Do yoga with your child. In order for your child to learn the yoga poses, you have to actually get up and show them how to do it. Take full advantage of this time and enjoy the stretch for yourself as well as teach your little one.
9. If you are cleaning up a toy box or sorting laundry, try doing it while squatting. This is a powerful yoga pose for any woman, it aids in digestion, promotes blood flow and circulation to reproductive organs and keeps inner thighs strong and flexible.
10. Take 10 deep breaths while doing the dishes or folding laundry. Try to breath in through your nose and out through your nose as slow and even as you can. At the same time, try to focus completely on your breath. Bringing your full awareness to your breath. If your mind wanders, and trust me it will, just be kind and come right back to your breath and try again. Remember that in order for stretching to be yoga, all you have to do is breath. No matter what your pose looks like, as long as you breathing you are doing yoga.
Don’t have time? Try this 2-minute exercise.
Got two minutes?
Good! Do some yoga!
Full hour yoga classes are very few and far between these days. In truth, I have been to one, count em, one yoga class since I was pregnant. BUT I try and do yoga in small snippets whenever I can.
I like this little routine because its super fast and effective in relieving any tight back muscles. It’s basically a standing variation of down dog, cat/cow and cobra, which makes it a great routine if you are pregnant too!
First, start by holding on to the back of your couch, or table, or counter, or whatever the hell you want-as long as it can really hold your weight. Then bend your knees and put your weight into your heels, and move your bottom away from the couch, giving your shoulders a nice stretch, and warming up your back and legs.
Then straighten your legs and press your chest towards the floor and your shoulder blades together.
This is a modified Down Dog. Your feet should be hip distance apart. The more you drop your chest down, the deeper the stretch will be. Make sure your back is flat. You can experiment with the intensity of the stretch based on how far away your feet are from the couch. The more you move them away, the deeper the stretch will be in your calves.
And make sure you are breathing! As long as you are breathing you are doing yoga, no matter what your body looks like in the pose.
The next pose is a nice side stretch and stretch for your spine, such a great stretch if you have a tendency to carry your baby on your hip. You are making a C shape, or a crescent shape, with your upper body. Stretch on one side and then the other. Use the the couch and the floor for resistance to get a deeper stretch.
Next is cat/cow. The picture above is of cat pose, its called that, because you arch your back up like a scared cat. Tuck your pelvis under and move your chin to your chest. Again, use the couch and the floor as resistance. You should feel a stretch all down your spine and in between your shoulder blades. For cow you keep your hands on the couch (or you can put them on your knees) like you have been and bring your pelvis to the couch, so your hip bones are touching the couch. Your legs are pretty straight, but can have a bend in them if that is more comfortable for you. Your elbows are bent and your shoulders are down, rolled away from your ears. You are looking up at the ceiling. This is a great stretch to open up your chest and shoulders.
More Yoga Poses and Exercises
Here is a list of some of my very favorite yoga poses, including instructions on how to do them with your child!
Tree Pose, one of my favorites.
I love tree pose so stinkin’ much. It is one of those poses, where when you look at it, it looks so easy. Saunter your leg up, like it ain’t no big deal, and you can’t do it. You can’t even place your foot on your foot and hold steady. It humbles you. It forces you to take a big look at yourself and forces you be honest with yourself in the present moment.
At the same time, for some people, it is one of those poses you can fake. Sure, you may be able to get your leg up and make a triangle with your bent leg, and balance. But how is your form? Are both your butt cheeks pulled in? Especially, the cheek of your standing leg. Is your knee cap of your standing leg, pulled up and your thigh engaged? Is the weight of your entire body, spread perfectly and evenly across the bottom of your standing foot? Is your bent knee at a 90 degree angle with your pelvis? Or is it pointed slightly forward? Are both your hips facing forward? Is your belly button pulled up into your spine? Are your shoulders down away from your ears? Are you staring at your drishti (a focus point on the wall, at eye level, to help you balance) and thinking of nothing but your breath?
It is a complicated pose, no doubt about it. But the beauty of practicing and mastering, balancing yoga poses, is that whatever you accomplish in class can directly correlate to mastering balance in your own life. Learning to live in a perfect state of balance, in regards to all things, in something I strive for and truth be told, one of the biggest lessons I learned when I had my studio, was how to keep my life in balance. Tree pose is one of the things that helps me along.
Once you can do some sort of balance in tree pose, you will start to notice that one side may easier to balance on and that it changes by the day, by the hour and by the minute. You will also notice, that moment you come out of the present and start thinking about your to do list, you will fall.
For the Kids!
For babies and toddlers, tree pose is a different experience. It is one of pure joy and elation as they learn about their bodies and what they can do with them. Tree pose, is one of my favorites to teach, because once a toddler can master this on their own, the look on their face when they do it for the first time, is priceless. The picture below is of Ava Grace, age 18 months. And me when I used to look young, pretty and full of life. Now I look like someone ran me over with a truck… Ah, motherhood.
For toddlers, you show them how to do tree pose first. But you show them the easiest way you can. With your foot by your ankle, or on top of your foot. Later, show them the full version of it, if you want. But this is a really hard pose for them, so make it attainable at first. Usually, it takes well past the 2nd birthday before kids can balance on one foot, so don’t despair if it takes them awhile. You can hold onto them, or show them how to hold onto the wall.
For babies, you move their legs for them, like the picture and they can be seated or standing. For babies, you are simply getting them to experience the movement of foot moving up the “standing” leg, which helps them set the brain pathways for later and they will pick it up faster when they are older.
Two of my favorite yoga poses for when I am about to lose it and need to calm down are the Child’s Pose and Reclined Bound Angle Pose (see below). Both are what I consider “close circuit” poses. What I mean by close circuit is that your body becomes a sort of circle or loop, and the energy meridians have an opportunity to reboot, rebalance and realign your parasympathetic nervous system.
Child’s pose is so easy, but it can be difficult for some people if they have tight hips. In that case, you can spread your knees far apart or lift your pelvis up and put a blanket under your bottom. You can also stack up blankets and put them underneath your chest and lean over them if you can’t actually get your head to the floor.
You can have your arms outstretched in front for an additional shoulder stretch or down by your sides. I think arms down by your sides is more restorative and more “closed circuit.”
Reclined Bound Angle Pose
For Reclined Bound Angle Pose lie on your back and bring the soles of the feet together. Your feet can be as close or as far away from your body as you want them. You can place blankets under your back and under each knee for an even more restorative version. Then place your hands over your stomach and clasp them together somehow that is comfortable for you.
Don’t you love how I am doing yoga in the middle of a mess of toys. You know its Mama Yoga when.
Legs Up the Wall Pose
If you don’t have a lot of energy, Legs Up the Wall pose, is a great all around pose for everyone. If you only do one yoga pose a day, or a week for that matter, do this one. Doing this pose for 5 minutes is like taking a 25 minute nap. It literally gives your body a break.
I first learned about this pose as a girl during a dance show. Actually, it was a video we were shooting for somebody, and we were about 12 years old. The taping was taking all day long, and it was verging on child abuse, so our dance teacher/den mother gave us a break and lined us all up in a vacant room and told us to stay there with our legs up the wall for 20 minutes and we couldn’t move. Lo and behold, after 20 minutes we were all rearing to go.
Which makes me think, if you could get a toddler to do this for a few minutes, it would be a great thing to do when they need a nap, but are refusing to go down.
If you are pregnant, one of the reasons you get so tired is because your heart is working double time. It is exhausting for your body simply pumping blood back to your heart from your extremities. Putting your legs up, lets gravity do the work for your body.
Also, if you are pregnant, you can put a rolled up towel or blanket under your right hip if you are worried about laying on your back for a little bit. But remember, you will feel dizzy and light headed, long before your baby is getting less oxygen. If you are you doing this pose and you feel fine, then your baby is fine.
Mama Meditation: Saa,Taa,Naa,Maa
I love this meditation. It is so simple and easy, and unlike a traditional meditation where you just focus on your breath, this one gives you something to do. And for me, if their is movement and rhythm involved, I am much more likely to do it at all, and much more likely to stay focused.
To begin, disregard the mountain of laundry behind me in the photo. In true Mama Yoga fashion, this is how I roll.
Lay on your stomach, with your chin on the floor. Keep your head straight, to keep your spine straight and in proper alignment. Lay your arms down by your side, with your palms facing up.
Then you mentally chant the words, Saa, Taa, Naa, Maa. As you chant each sound, close a finger and thumb together.
So, on Saa, you close your first finger and thumb. On, Taa, you close your ring finger and thumb and so forth.
The reason you are on your stomach for this meditation is because it stimulates and balances your “Moon Centers”. Each woman has 11 Moon Centers and they are located in different parts of the body.
Your psyche resides in each Moon Center for approximately 2.5 days, and each Moon Center is associated with a different emotion or quality, so roughly when you have cycled through all the centers you have completed one menstrual cycle.
This meditation is supposed to help you break old habits, assist you going through transitions and change and any accompanying emotional turmoil. I don’t know about you, but that is my life all day, every day, it seems.
I have been doing this meditation before bed, every night, for the past two months. It has been a nice way from me to transition from laptop/work mode to shifting into relaxation/sleep mode.
This webcast episode goes into gardening as well, but the main content I don’t want you to miss is the yoga squat tutorial.
In my opinion, it is one of the most simple and powerful yoga poses for women. It’s for women of all life stages, whether you are a child, young girl, trying to conceive, pregnant, postpartum, peri-menpausal or menopausal.
- It strengthens your pelvic floor and all the ligaments that are in your pelvis, oh you know, doing important things like holding up your uterus and ovaries!
- It helps with digestion, by pressing on your descending colon (your thigh presses up against the sides of your tummy) and gently massages your entire digestion system with each outward breath.
- It opens up your pelvis and increases circulation, which increases oxygen and blood flow helping to get nutrients to the area and toxins and junk out of the area.
Prenatal Yoga for Back Relief
If you’re expecting, and are experiencing some back pain due to your changing body, you may want to check out this post I wrote for Code Name: Mama. These exercises were game-changers during my pregnancy.
Prenatal Yoga Classes?
Are you wondering if prenatal yoga classes are worth it or are for you? I can’t encourage you to go enough! It is vital to your health, but it will also help you have an easier labor, I promise. I can’t guarantee your birth outcome, but yoga will help guaranteed.
This is one of the most important things you will learn in prenatal yoga. The Squat. As seen here, in early labor. Just don’t look at my huge, swollen feet. I said don’t look!
The squat aids in digestion, as all us former preggers and current preggers know, we need all the help we can get to keep things moving along when you have a 9 pound baby in your belly.
It strengthens your pelvic floor muscles, so you you get the most out of each contraction and pushing and then later get things back in place down there more quickly.
It helps get baby in the right position for an easier decent through the birth canal. And in late pregnancy, it will help press baby’s head against your cervix to stimulate labor.
I have so many wonderful memories of going to prenatal yoga and practicing at home – you should try it!
A Book for Moms and Yogis at All Stages
I just finished reading the book, Poser: My Life in 23 Yoga Poses. It is full of magical personal insights, so it reads like a self-help book, but it’s as entertaining as the best non-fiction. That is probably the definition of a memoir, now that I think about it, ha!
I was talking to my friend, Lindsey, the other day about self-help books and she said she is not the kind of person that likes to sit down with that kind of book, that it is laborious for her to get through them. For me, reading self-help and health books is like popping candy in my mouth. I love it, it’s relaxing for me, and I barrel through them.
But if you are not like me, Poser, is an easy, fun read. It’s one of those books, where because you bought it to be a relaxing, read-in-the-tub kind of book, you sort of feel like a train hit you, because it starts unraveling some deep seated beliefs about yourself. It is also the best introductory explanation of yoga poses and history I have ever read.
The book is a classic female hero’s journey. If you don’t know what a hero’s journey is, I highly recommend devouring Pam England’s blog. She will blow your mind. Read it all, every single post. Her blog is like my weekly multi-vitamin for my scattered and mended heart, my Sunday Service.
Claire Dederer, is a crunchy, AP, Seattle, new mom trying to do everything absolutely perfect, in order to consider her self good.
Too hard on ourselves?
This book made me self reflect on so many things and one of them is this concept of what exactly it means to be a good mother. I have visited this concept before, when I was doing my advanced Birthing From Within training but that was over 5 years ago and I wasn’t a mother yet.
I grew up with what I consider to be a bad mother, she is a good person, just not a good mother. And I know that much of the choices I have made in my parenting style, have been to live up to the internal guidelines I have set up for myself of what makes a good mother, based on everything she was not.
For example, for me and my awesomely loud inner judge, a good mother nurses her baby on demand and self weans. Can you imagine my inner turmoil when I was not given the opportunity to do that? I had a personal belief system that if I did not nurse, I was a Fuck. Up. And thus, I had to re-shift my thinking of what constitutes being a good mother for me. I am reiterating the for me part, because I am talking about how I judge myself, not other mothers.
I learned long ago it’s not a good idea to judge other mothers for their choices, or judge anyone for that matter. I always say that the specific way in which we parent our children does not matter, only that we bring unconditional love to each moment with them.
So since I couldn’t nurse, the next best thing for a “good mother” to do, is do everything she possibly can to get her baby to nurse. A good mother does not give up and throw in the towel, a good mother pumps her brains out and does not supplement with formula. The list went on and on and on. And I did not deviate. I stayed on the course, the inner judge whipping me back in line whenever needed, and dammit, by 5 months I got my daughter to nurse.
Then I realized that my list of what makes a good mother is much longer than my birthing and feeding choices. A good mother makes clothes from scratch! She makes food from things she grew herself in her garden and then makes a meal from scratch! Hell, even makes laundry detergent from scratch! She also works out 5 days a week AND does yoga. She does yoga with her child too. She cloth diapers and makes chicken stock from bones from a $30 chicken that she drove 4 hours round trip to go buy straight from a farmer because organic chicken from the natural food store is not good enough.
After reading this book, I began to take stock of how much I do, not only because it’s healthy or the right thing to do, but because it makes me feel like I am GOOD. The energy it takes to try and be good is EXHAUSTING.
What a breath of fresh air. It was like she just gave me a hall pass for motherhood. And so I give it you. Give yourself a pat on the back, you are doing great! Even if you are not growing your own damn food and making your own damn laundry detergent and nursing your baby 24/7. You are awesome and good just as you are.
A Peek Into My Old Yoga Studio
By now, my undying love for yoga is probably obvious.
I have been in love with yoga since I was 13. To open a yoga studio in 2006, at age 24, was a dream come true. Looking back, I can’t believe I pulled it off for even two years. What 24 year old does that? With no business experience at all?
The couple of years it was open taught me so much. I joke that I am a self-taught entrepreneur, and that I got my MBA from the School of Hard Knocks. But all that real life business experience paid off and helps me run my online business today.
Anyway, here are some pictures I thought I’d share with you. A piece of my past and a piece of my heart I did the build out of the space, totally eco-friendly and non-toxic. And back in 2006, going green wasn’t as huge as it is today. I was the first business in Tallahassee to do that and the first to sell organic clothes. Even though some people see it as a failure, I see it as a success. I am so proud of myself for having the guts to risk everything to go after my dream. I helped so many women and families during that time and I know I made a difference and planted seeds for change in our local community. And even though I ended up having to paying back the start up loan for this place years after it closed, I am glad I did it. I wouldn’t change a thing, because then I wouldn’t be me!
This was the studio part. Those floors are bamboo. My husband and I, my brother, and another two friends laid them ourselves. All 2000 square feet. It was some back breaking labor, but now I know how to install wood floors! The pictures on the back wall, were of toddlers doing yoga and pregnant mamas and even a baby crowning at a birth. I kid you not.
The massage room. I used milk-based and no-voc paint for the walls. Bamboo and organic sheets for table, even the rug underneath was hemp. Now you know why it took so long to pay off the start up loan!
My front door.
The organic boutique in the front. Everything was organic or fair trade.
See the playroom in the corner? That is where I spent most of my time! I was a nanny full time during the years I ran the studio. I worked 80 to 100 hours a week, every week, for almost two years.
The front desk. Loved that fabric so much!
More of the boutique.
And the belly casts! Everyone loved these so much.
Thanks for going down memory lane with me! What do you think? It was a pretty cool place, right?!
P.S. Robin Adams Photography took all these pictures, she is awesome.
At the End of the Day
When it comes down to it, yoga has become such an integral part to my mental and physical wellbeing. I can’t imagine a day without it and I hope you give it a try, too!
Have you ever tried yoga? Tell me about your experience in the comments!