BENEFITS OF FAMILY YOGA

 “Movement is a powerful tool. We can transform our bodies, families, communities, and the planet… simply by moving more.”

Katy Bowman

 

As a mother of two gorgeous babas I am understanding the value of Yoga not just for my own self care and wellbeing but the profound impact for my family dynamic. I feel so strongly about the hugely positive benefits of family yoga, that I am starting a family yoga class with a gorgeous friend, mama and fellow yogi Sonja. An opportunity for us to share and explore together with other families, build community, support and promote the value of self care, inquiry and love for ourselves and our families.

IMG_5379.JPG

As part of the integrated training in family yoga, mum and baby and post natal yoga, with the wonderful Uma Dinsmore and Janice Wong, I was asked to reseach and explore how yoga could be of assistance to young families. So here are my humble musings and personal experience.

 How Family Yoga has benefitted me

When thinking about this question I was reminded of a really crystal-clear moment I had as a young mother. One which I went on to write about on my blog ‘babies are the best yoga teachers’.

Watching my baby from the day he was born, I was mesmerised by how effortlessly present and adaptable babies are.

As a yoga enthusiast I had always struggled with the things that babies just did organically. It had been a hugely profound experience for me, as I had worried that having a baby would impact negatively on my yoga practice; I wouldn’t have the luxury of practicing when I wished, going to class, travelling for training etc. So I was astounded when the opposite happened. Having my baby opened my eyes, my heart and my being to all the details, all the parts I had been quick to brush over on route to something bigger. I had missed the essence, the simplicity and the subtleties of even the smallest gesture, movement, breath or moment.

I kept coming back to these realisations and how Yoga became part of my day to day as a result of having my baby. I think these also apply to how Yoga can be so beneficial in family life;

Having a baby is a perfect lesson in the art of living in the present moment.

Prioritising Rest – Learning about self-care and self-love

Breathing Patience – Slowing down and noticing the detail.

Finding a Daily Practice of Self care – How yoga helped me navigate my ever-changing emotions, physicality and thought processes as I transitioned into Motherhood.

 In a world where people are increasingly over stretched, stressed and often overwhelmed, in western culture where family and children are not a priority of society and where most modern-day families are not surrounded by extended family or community for support, there is, I feel an ever-increasing need for Yoga. As Deborah Jackson discusses in her book ‘three in a bed’, we are not supposed to raise our children alone. As the well known African proverb says ‘it takes a village to raise a child’. Yet there is tremendous pressure on parents to be seen to be coping, to be the balanced, self-sufficient, independent and able to juggle, work, family life, healthy living, social lives etc. Yoga with its diverse array of techniques for calming, strengthening and harmonising mind, body and spirit, can support and help families to be active together, conscious and mindful of their own needs while consciously respecting others and our environment.

So what is the value of Yoga for families?

Family Yoga can encourage a sense of playfulness, fun and creativity in interactions between parents and their children to help enrich communication, support closeness and personal connection and enhance everyone’s development in a nurturing way.

1.    SELF AWARENESS & MUTUAL RESPECT

Babies and children are already embodying and practicing the principles of yoga in their everyday, both present and awakened to their experiences, their senses and their bodies. As parents we can learn from them. Family yoga can help to cultivate open minded acceptance in a parent child relationship. The impact of a family sharing time together to be exactly as they are and to learn from each other can have a profound effect on relationships, cultivating mutual respect and deepening self awareness both of our own body and breath but equally important, of our relationship with our environment our responsibility to, and impact on it.

IN ACTION: Honouring where our body is, recognising and checking in with our breath and our body as we move through asanas together, and on our own. Sensitising to our environment and its relative impact upon us.

I did pranayama each day when my son was feeding or sleeping, watching him, his breath and the rhythm of his belly was incredibly relaxing and reminded me to explore the fullness of my own breath. Amidst the chaos of extended sleep deprivation and a feeling my parents will relate, that very little is within your control, having a daily routine of even a few minutes to focus on the breath was powerful beyond measure. Calming for me and deeply nourishing for my nervous system. I fully admit that this and savasana kept me from loosing my marbles.

Uma Dinsmore Tuli and Janice Wong  Demonstrating family yoga partnering options for shoulder stand.

Uma Dinsmore Tuli and Janice Wong Demonstrating family yoga partnering options for shoulder stand.

2.    ACCESSIBILITY

Yoga is accessible and can be available to all. Yoga can be done anywhere, it requires little or no equipment and is relatively cheap to attend a class or free if done at home. In a world, where the modern family is often living independently from their extended family or a support network and time and money are often a restriction, this is an attractive option. We can definitely do much more to increase accessibility of yoga for all. In Edinburgh, I am hugely grateful for the amazing work of Laura Wilson and Edinburgh Community Yoga for this.

IN ACTION: For me, yoga was the most powerful support in early motherhood and today juggling life with two. I could do small amounts of yoga with my son in the sling, lying next to me and then as he grew, with him. I started to explore and mimic some of the movements he did in my practice. A sort of free form movement and found it was amazing for loosening and warming up the tighter parts of my body – hips etc. I also tried to start building in time to talk about the breath and using it in times of frustration or confusion or conflict. Deep breathing with the nose. Big exhales and body release and breath with sound. This was definitely integrated into family life off the mat and is something I wish to cultivate more as our family grows.

 

3.    ACCEPTANCE

Exploring postures and movement with the approach of feeling into what works best for your body is an example of how yoga promotes self inquiry and acceptance. As a family, exploring postures and modifications relevant for each person and acknowledging the beauty of difference, of personal attributes and qualities without comparison or judgement, is a wonderful thing.

In a parent child situation there is role modelling, teaching and guidance. In this context each individual can learn from the other and just be themselves in an activity and setting where there isn’t a ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way, just a ‘present’ way best for you and your body in that moment. This opportunity to recognise the importance of being present, compassionate and aware, in a climate where attainment, competition and comparison, be in through the education system or social media, are surely positive virtues that would be of benefit to young people and their family,

IN ACTION: As my son has gotten older we have enjoyed moving through different asanas and particularly experimenting with partnering together for certain postures. It is lovely to move into a posture together and then we discuss the shapes and how we are different in our posture but how somethings are similar or the same. And through my son’s lead we enjoy exploring our own versions of poses that organically feel good.

IMG_6197.JPG

4.    SELF DISCIPLINE & CREATIVITY

It is well documented that imaginative, experiential and creative play are of vital importance for children in early years and beyond, helping to nurture a Childs natural laws of growth and unfoldment. As M Donaldson states in her book ‘Children’s Minds’ yoga can develop two very important aspects in the personality of a child; self-discipline and stimulating creativity. Never more so have we needed to nurture these attributes in our children, in a society where self-adaptability, regulation and divergent thinking are needed to navigate a world of heightened sensory stimulation, where jobs, vocations and careers are now multi-faceted and constantly evolving. Where media and technology are developing faster than our understanding of the relative implications of its use on, the human brain, emotional, physical and mental wellbeing. In essence, our need to recognise the merits and use of technology must be underpinned by a deep respect and active relationship with our environment, with mother nature and a recognition of our responsibility for both the environment and ourselves.

IN ACTION: After the birth of our first son we begin practicing yoga together as a family, actively seeking opportunities both at home and in nature to move, breath, explore and play. The impact for me personally and on my now 4-year-old son has both astounded and inspired me. After the recent birth of my second son, family yoga has been an active part of our day to day lives. I continue to be mesmerised by the scope and opportunity yoga offers me as a mother and a woman. Often, we do yoga outdoors, naturally becoming more sensitised to our breath, drawing a deeper breath and never more so did I recognise the impact of this on the nervous system than in my son. He is calmer, happier and more acutely responsive in nature. The beauty, as I mentioned above is you can do yoga ANYWHERE! Yoga is so much more than making shapes with our bodies and the more subtle practices of pranayama, sonic massage, mudras, meditation and story telling can be done in all manner of contexts… Aka I have used it when; camping, in the car, in the bath, waiting for the bus, stuck in a que… (I feel a future blog post sharing these gems may be in store :).

 

5.    RELAXATION

Celebrating and prioritising relaxation and cultivating a deeper sense of inner connection. The importance of practicing Shavasana at the end of each yoga session to promote relaxation, to calm the mind, is what some believe to be one of the most important aspects of the practice. As it provides an opportunity for our body to really integrate what its learned, to observe the breath and how we feel. the use of sound vibration, breathwork, body scanning and other relaxation techniques have been proven to have a profound and deep impact on the nervous system, helping to promote more restful sleep, vitality in the body, reduce stress and calm the mind. Again its a no brainer in my mind. Every human needs this and for sure parents, babies, children and young adults. Recognising the importance of, and practical ways to ensure self care, is a valuable skill set for life’s technicolored experiences, highs, lows, set backs, achievements and all thats in-between.

IN ACTION: This is something I have done with my son since he was little, I used to lie with him next to me in shavasana, or on my chest. I have always loved this moment, feeling each other’s breath, breathing together, there is a deep connection and it also reminds me of when he was in my womb. When we attended the family yoga he chose to lie on his own mat and I was astounded that he got under his own blanket and lay still, peaceful for the whole time. He also said that was his favourite part. I think creating space and time to relax together in this mindful way is really powerful. I notice the energy shift in my son after these sessions and his ability to find stillness. I am keen to explore more ways to support this through aspects of movement and pranayama.

Uma dinsmore tuli demonstrating the use of sonic massage and bija mantra to promote relaxation.

Uma dinsmore tuli demonstrating the use of sonic massage and bija mantra to promote relaxation.

Want to try Family yoga in Edinburgh?

Inspired? Intrigued? Curious?... Come try it for yourself. Join me, Sonja and our families for some Family yoga. Sessions are scheduled for March, May, July and September. Full listings of dates can be found on my timetable and booking options are available in the class description.

So don’t take my word for it! Give it a go!

And I will leave you with these words to ponder on from Cheryl Sanders book ‘Children play’;

 ‘If we see movement as learned at a deep level through the environment, we can begin to understand it as the subtle language of the soul, and distinctly different in different cultures… Movement is not just the movement of my voluntary muscles in response to my wishes. It is also my response to the world…the disruption of the sense of movement wholly disrupts our ability to live in the world with a sense of purpose.’

 

Tess x

 

IMG_5406 2.JPG

THIS IS MOTHERHOOD - A DAY IN THE LIFE OF.

T.I.M - The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.

 

So after recently having my second baba, its fair to say that our day to day living has been turned upside down and life is well – mental.

Beautiful, bewitching, hard and well yes, insane. 

In short I felt compelled to share a wee snippet of daily living as a mother. In a slightly deranged moment of clarity the other week I chuckled to myself as I repeated T.I.M… it was the only thing that would effectively sum up the day I had just had. So ‘THIS IS MOTHERHOOD’ was born… inspired by TIA, an acronym I came to use frequently when I volunteered in Kenya some moons ago and which kept us all smiling even when faced with quite brutal realities day to day, the term ‘THIS IS AFRICA’ would say what we often couldn’t cobble together in words; sometimes hilarious, sometimes shocking, sometimes otherworldly. 

So here goes, a day in the life of…. A Mama... this mama, or to be exact, a woman, aka me, mother of one new bright and beaming 10-week-old boy and one very lively, inter galactic star dust fueled nearly 4-year-old. So, hold on to your hats:

 

Photo artistry from the talented Leo

Photo artistry from the talented Leo

Morning; rituals, coffee and melt downs

4.30AM

‘Morning!?@3!!!

Yes, I hear you, WTF! To most sane people this is NOT in fact morning and is very much still the middle of the night. Try explaining that to a 3-year-old, and for those who aren’t familiar with the art of reasoning with a toddler, its simple, you can’t. The back story is our first beautiful baba has never really enjoyed the art of sleeping. So, after 3 and a half years of chronic sleep deprivation (that’s on our part – he was as bright as a button), he was just getting to a point of sleeping to a time we could reasonably call morning (anything after 5am) when, bam we went and added a new born brother to the mix. Arrrhh

So, the awesome human that is dad has been taking this grueling hit as I am in bed with baba attached to my boob. However, on this morning, trying to give him a much-needed lie in (again let me explain to those who are maybe unfamiliar, this anything is up to and beyond 7.30AM) I got up.

 

5.30am-6.30AM

Breakfast making, baby on boob, and one handed mastery (parents acquire new found skills in one handed wizardry when they have kids… holding a new born while, eating, cooking, putting shoes on, trying to dress another human, or yourself, feeding animals, making a cup of tea, going to the toilet, it’s all been done).

Then some CBeebies time for leo, aka time for me and baba to lie flat and try to pretend that we are still asleep while hey duggee does his oh so weird and wonderful thing in the background (if you have ever seen that programme its like a trippy dream anyway, so floating in and out of consciousness its quite fitting)!

So let me set the scene. we were all about no screens when leo was born. We had read a lot around this and it was something that was part of our family dynamic (insignificant fact, I met Sue Palmer who wrote toxic childhood the night before at a meeting and was a tad star struck). So pre-two years there were no screens. Now when your baba wakes multiple times in the night and calls 4,30am morning – well you can just imagine what that might look like? Suffice to say that me and robin have aged about 10 years in that time – look it up, severe sleep deprivation is a form of torture. Anyway, me and robin as parents have always said to each other and tried to live by; NO judgment. Everyone has to do it their own way, whatever works for them as a family. We have very much decided we NEED CBeebies to function so it is now part of our morning – I am 100% happy and could kiss Duggee..

 

6.45AM

Attempt to get dressed. Switch on the life support machine (the coffee machine – honestly when this nearly broke I had a heart attack – and again super dad came to the rescue, he is a fixing wizard). Attempt to get anyone else dressed - don’t succeed. Give baba a wee baby steam and facial – in the bouncer while I have a 2-minute shower, interrupted in that time by leo leaving a most fragrant deposit in the toilet. This is Motherhood… you will begin to dream of the day you may go to the toilet on your own uninterrupted. And it will happen, in about 10 years.

Get myself dressed, baba pukes on clean top. Wipe it and move on (3 puke rule, if it isn’t curdled – move on). When you see the pile of washing that amounts daily, you choose to ‘not notice’ the watery pukes (is this too much information??).  

7.45AM

Rising panic on my part that no one is dressed other than me, Leo is asking for more breakfast (usually he has 3, I mean 3 adult portions of breakfast). Baba is wet (sick and dribble), both wanting attention, all the while, dad is trying to get ready for work, while holding a baba and listening to the free flow babble coming from Leo – why is it that small humans need to verbalise their constant stream of consciousness. By 8am you feel like your brains been on a deep spin in the washing machine and youve been spat back out. It appears all we are trying to do is make it out the door before 9am for Leos gym class. I wonder, am I expecting too much??!

 

8AM

Email to say gym class is cancelled. Quick context, it is literally Leos favorite class, he asks ‘when is it Wednesday mama’, or hopefully most mornings ‘gym tots today???!!’. So, meltdown ensues at the same time baba wants a feed. Where is my 3rd arm I ask myself again. 2 arms just doesn’t cut it. Funny interlude… some text banter one day between mum and dad resulted in roaring laughter and the new title of ‘Gym Tits’ which we now call Leos gym class! Ah you have to love predictive text – those little golden nuggets keep me going when things get dark.

Leaving the house; Bribery and Poonami’s 

8-9AM

I try to think up a new plan while getting baba dressed and settled on a cushion, with Leo bouncing up and down unnervingly close to the 10-week-old precious cargo.

New plan – lets go to the castle around the corner. We can walk there, baba can have a snooze in the sling, ah mama what a genius plan. ‘But I don’t want to go outside, I hate walking, I want to build a rocket.’ So, after some sweet negotiation (Alas, another skill parents unknowingly acquire – the fine art of secret service style negotiation), we are off.

Well I say we are off. It takes us another hour to actually fully leave the building.

Coats on, feed the baba, put the baba down to tackle teeth brushing, mine included, return to find Zen buddha baba has put himself to sleep, utterly bored by the proceedings and drama that descends every time we try to, well, do anything all together. 

Put baba in the sling, go get the pram out of the shed while leaving Leo with a dangling carrot, ‘if you put your shoes on you can have a box of raisins, (don’t judge, another thing that went out the window, bribery… this is a formidable trick of the trade and 100% needed in order to maintain my sanity).

 

9.10AM

SAS training begins for the mama. So after having trained now extensively in post-natal recovery, healing, loving the mama and self-care, I find myself with a baba in the sling front side, and an insanely heavy backpack on my back (wtf is in there!!@??!). Que 2nd meltdown. The bike leo was excited to ride (that had also been a vital part of the bribery plan to get him out of the house), is in fact, wait for it, at the bike shop! Well fuck a duck. After mentally counting my breath, and restraining myself from having an ‘adult tantrum’, I move on, Watch a highly dramatic launch onto the grass from Leo, very angry shouts and some throwing of leaves and twigs. Poor little lamb, so we have a cuddle (no mean feat with another human strapped to your chest), i’m boil in a bag and we’re off, hallelujah! Hail the donkey pram full of more paraphernalia and Leo. Yes, we are using the pram as I suspected, not for the baby, but to avoid serious injury of the mama, me having to carry two humans and a bag would be the end of my shoulders and back.

 

Real life Superhero in the woods.

Real life Superhero in the woods.

10AM

The buddha baba is not happy so we do a swap, baby in the pram, Leo on the skate board (the one I might add that has been the cause of my severely bruised shins). 5 minutes on, baba NOT happy, Im feeling like my own insides are going to explode and we are saved by a lovely woman who senses my strain and comes over to help. She picks up all the crap I dropped while trying to get baba back in the sling and chats to me about her own baba’s. BREATHE BREATHE BREATHE.

A highly important point here; sometimes that parent you see struggling on the pavement, on a bus, in the supermarket, just needs some kindness, a smile, a ‘hello’, a ‘do you need a hand’. This human contact might be the first that parent has had after a 12-hour day surviving with little people and don’t ever underestimate the power that can have on someone’s mental health.

 So blah blah blah we get tp the castle – SLOWLY after a pee stop on route. No not me, Leo.

 

10.30-12PM

We play at the castle, run around, again logistically challenging with a baba strapped to your front. I find myself crawling through bushes, sitting in a tree and trying to do all those things I did pre baba number two.

 Then, you guessed it, Cack attack. When a small person needs to go, its instantaneous. No time to race to the toilet (again can’t run at speed with a baba on my body). So as the saying goes ‘does. bear shit in the woods?’. If I have lost any of you at this point, please rest assured, it was a clean affair, pooped on a pile of leaves then scooped them into a nappy bag and voila! Used the toilets to wash hands, and hey presto.

I’m totally done in already, so thinking it must nearly be lunch time, oh look its 11.10am!! it’s raining, so more playing in the woods, using a shelter we helped build that is still unbelievably standing. Then as suspected… ‘mum I’m hungry. Now again I feel I need to explain, I would say I take pleasure in being known as the mama of all pack ups. Well not today... I’ve done the unforgivable, Ive failed to bring not only the pack up, but any snacks. School boy error and a game changer.

Does a bear shit in the woods? do toddlers ?!?

Does a bear shit in the woods? do toddlers ?!?

Lunchtime; Mum juggling, food and boobs

11.40AM – 1PM

Head home – so putting into context, the grand effort to get out took around an hour and a half and we stayed for about an hour.

Journey home in the rain pushing the over laden donkey pram. Get back, feed baba, and make lunch while trying to keep Leo entertained with hide and seek, aka you go hide and I’ll take a really really long time to find you.

 So when my ass hits a chair for lunch it feels like Ive been awake for 3 days already and – ah yes we are official about ½ way through the day.

While we eat lunch, I again dream of a 3rd arm, as I attempt to express while feeding. What does this look like I hear you cry… well it isn’t pretty. Half my sandwich ends up falling on Rumi’s head as he feeds but needs must (I don’t express every day but it does help me to carve out a bit of mama self-care time later on – read on to find out).

Afternoon Antics; crafty cuts, Dens and into the wild.

1-4PM

In a nut shell The afternoon looked like this…. 

Crafters; We got down to some serious creative play, we got messy, we did some high-octane crafting; imagine paint, glitter and glue explosions and you will have a pretty accurate picture…. Aka go wild leo, create, enjoy – lasted about 20minutes.

Den builders: blankets, chairs, teddies, me and baba and captain Leo. ‘Sister Sister’ as Leo calls it which is like ‘mummy’s and daddy’s’ and is a fav of mine as involves, ‘going to bed – lying down and pretending to be asleep – Hurray (if only).

Wild Beasts; back outdoors for some serious afternoon fresh air blasting and wild animal releasing (I totally get it, Im not a kid but it feels so good to hang upside down at the play park, run in a field and howl like a wolf – seriously good for the soul and your own sanity). After the set back of having gotten everyone actually dressed to go out, baba pukes all over himself and poo’s up his back. Que meltdown, everyone back in, to de robe a very unhappy baba, nappy change, clothing change then a feed to settle, all the while trying to soothe a very frustrated little person who just wants a cuddle without a baba hanging from your boob.

We get to the park, we run about, I go down the slide after saying I can’t because I have baba Rumi in the sling. After the 7th time climbing up and sliding down in a train with Leos feet digging into my back I admit defeat. Put a fork in me, I am done.

unhinged!

unhinged!

We head home, all the while, i’m wondering why I always do it to myself, sweating profusely with a hot water bottle baba strapped to my chest a jacket and cardigan on which I now can’t remove as it stupidly put the sling on over them both in a rush to leave the house. Baba is wriggling and wants to stretch out after being in the sling. Walking home looking like a small pterodactyl is trying to break free from my chest.

Another melt down on the way back as the small human starts to struggle with, just about everything, The reality of waking up at 4.30am is that by 4pm you are totally and utterly cream crackered.  

We get in the door, everyone is crying, I send an SOS to dad who tentatively asks how our day has been!?! To which I reply; ‘Fucking hard’ – parent code for ‘come home NOW’… 

 

The Home Straight; SOS, cavalry and bedtime.

5-7PM

Dad, aka my savior gets back and scoops up Leo to his delight, gives me a compassionate look and a big bear hug and says…’well done mama – my hero’.… We have a gourmet meal lovingly prepared… fish fingers, potato wedges, peas and broccoli (get some green on their– all food groups represented – we are wining, and the little human is happy). Leo’s eyes are rolling into the back of his head and hes struggling to eat his tea (me and dad know this then means he wakes up in the night hungry and we have a restless night – Nooooooo), and right on que from our little pocket rocket, ‘im not tired mummy’ – of course not son ?!?@@! – Breathe breathe breathe only 2 hours till we can ALL go to bed (you think I am joking – this has become my bed time and I am 100% happy with that).

6.30PM

Quiet play, matching pairs Ninjago style, pJ’s on, teeth brushed, and then all into the big bed to read stories, one arm round Leo, one round buddha boy who’s feeding and snoozing. 

Dad takes Leo to bed, I lie down with baba and play back the day’s events, feeling utterly exhausted. Slowly as I re-tell the day to robin I find the humor in it all. Maybe I’m just delirious but the moments from the day where I felt I was actually going to have a full-blown adult ‘tantrum’ (yes, I can fully vouch, they do exist), had become laughable.

 

8PM

Then the very variable and final part of my day, some muma time, some yoga time. I haul myself out of bed and do a win win trade with robin, he snuggles in next to baba (Dads fav time of the day, he gets to snug in with his baba and an expressed bottle of milk on hand incase baba needs a top up). While I go and unravel on my mat. Sometimes I get 5 minutes of yoga, sometimes on a very good day an hour. Sometimes I just breathe then lie in shavasana. But Some time to just be in my body without anything else, to unwind the knots, decompress, breathe, move and be in my body, let go of my sometimes buzzing, sometimes foggy brain and just be is unimaginably blissful. Whatever kind of day it’s been, this is like my re set, it brings it all home (humor and chocolate also feature heavily, the number of squares of chocolate relay the kind of day - 2 on average, 3 if things got really trippy!). Whatever it might be for you, I would urge any Muma to find something, your own recharge swtich, decompression chamber, reset button… it’s a must. This is what wakes me up to the beauty that is my family of 4… the wild, raw, juiciness of it all and how grateful I am for the rainbow bonkers madness that is my day to day… it’s filled with a lot and Pure love is at the centre – thank the heavens for oxytocin… We all know you do wildly crazy stuff when you are inlove and parenthood is testament to this.

 9PM

In bed, Asleep, babe in arms. AKA cream crackered, day officially done! Winning at Mothering!

IMG_1531.JPG

So there we have it, a day in the life of. 

This is motherhood, or more accurately, this is MY MOTHERHOOD. 

Over and out.

 

T x