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Busy Parents Can Make Great Yogis – honestly!

It’s the age-old problem and convenient excuse. I have no time to practice, go to class, fit a meditation into my day because of the kids. Sure children take up space, time and energy and they need all of that parental nourishment too. There are definite practical logistics that have to fit into a day… meal times, school runs, homework, bath time, playtime etc…. but in order for you to be that amazing super-mum or dad you have to find some yogatime for you too. We have all been there though – up to your eyes in kids running riot or running you ragged, rushing between school pick ups, sports activities, cooking the evening meal whilst testing French homework and signing school books… How on earth are you able therefore in that kind of scenario to find a few moments of calm, enough space amongst the Barbies and Playmobile or the noise of Super Mario to flow gracefully through your sun salutations or meditate on the oneness of the universe?

Being a modern yogi of any level (casual class here and there to trying very hard to practice once or twice a week at home or class, right up to being a teacher) juggling parental responsibilities and family time is just that at the end of the day, a juggling act. But it is possible. Simply saying that you “don’t have the time”  is just too easy an excuse. You don’t have to have a full day ahead of you or even 2 hours of perfect peace and quiet time. You certainly don’t have to schlepp up the Himalayas or head off to an ashram in India either. And if you are not the kind of person able to get up at 4am to meditate and practice fear not there are ways that you can integrate your practice into your daily routine.

I am a busy working Mum with two children now 10 and 5. Throughout their childhood I have integrated my practice into their schedule as well as into mine. I don’t necessarily have a daily fixed routine but I do meditate and have a daily asana practice. When they were babies I would put them by my side or sometimes wait until their sleep time to practice. I have often come across students and even fellow teachers who say that it is just impossible to practice because the house is never quiet and the feel they have to wait until the children are in bed or very much occupied elsewhere to be able to practice.  I have never hidden my practice from my children or waited for them to be silent and away from me. Some days I have got up early to flow through my meditation and practice in more of a silent environment and the girls often come downstairs to find Mummy on her mat in full asana flow. They have learnt to come up and sit or give me a morning kiss and hug mid posture and then either help themselves to breakfast or wait for me to finish.

Other times I simply practice with them as they play or watch a DVD right next to me, some times I retreat to the garden and often the girls come and practice by my side or with me. Sometime we practice together – My eldest daughters first word was OM and recently aged 10 and to my delight she practiced morning and evening with the yoginis who came on a retreat in our house. My youngest frequently sits by my side and chants Om or when I am in downward dog or bridge pose giggles and scrambles underneath me. The trick is to actually let them do that and enjoy what is yoga with you. Children are very versatile and adapt easily to what you teach them to be normal. Your practicing during their daily routine instead of banning them from your yoga time or waiting for them to be “unavailable” as it were just teaches them that it is an exclusive activity that takes you away from them and they will ultimately resent you for your practice or even yoga in general. I have lived in France for over 14 years now and one of the biggest differences I have learnt between the UK and France with children is that in France you take your children pretty much everywhere with you – dinner parties and restaurants included. They grow up seeing their parents at drinks, dinner etc… and see what they are like outside of the house, how they behave and learn that it is really no different from home – no big secret.  In the UK it seems to me there is more of a culture of babysitters for nights out and as such the parents tend to go out without their kids returning possibly a little more “jolly” than when they left or a little fragile the day after. The children don’t know why as they don’t know what happens they just see the results.

This is not a criticism of culture its just an observation and can be applied to your yoga practice at home. It is important for your children to see and experience your practice and the results of it as they will quickly learn that when Mummy gets her mat out and in the words of Clarisse Bean (if you don’t have the book get it) stands on one leg and listens to whales to relax, they see that that is exactly what happens. She is a nicer more patient Mummy afterwards! They will be happy for you to practice.

The other great thing about children is they have a very short attention span. So if they come up whilst you are in mid practice wanting something or wanting to join in either quietly go and get them what they need or let them join in with you – they will last 5 to 10 min max and then will go on and do their own thing. The trick is to not get cross with them. Keep practicing it is vital for your sanity as a busy parent.

Find the time – make the time – let them see you practice and join in if they want to. Maybe even encourage family yoga time. Not only do the kids love some fun postures – the animals are the best – but they will of course benefit from the postures and mediation or breathing.

Finally calling all you busy parents – you can and should find at least 5 minutes a day to meditate - especially on the hectic and noisy days. It will replenish your body and soul. Just taking 5 minutes out to sit, be, breath and let a simple smile creep onto your face with your eyes closed, your spine straight, breathing calm and heart open will help you tackle the rest of your day with way more patience then if you don’t. And if you can’t sit at home try meditating in your car, doing the washing up, the housework…. Allow your breathing to steady and observe the sounds around you and let go of tensions. Be in the present moment – that is THE best form of yoga you can practice both on yourself and WITH your children.

I am by far the perfect Mum and believe me when things get full-on at home and the kids are playing up (pre full moon is the worst) Durga – the warrior goddess – arises and I am not always calm and “zen”. But without my daily practice and without my “letting-go” space I would be way worse with them and far more stressed myself.

Being a yogic parent is after all just an extension of the over all yogic message of unity and harmony. Finding that within our own home environment is an incredible goal to aim for and one that is totally achievable. The first people who should benefit from that are your children so give them that precious gift of their parent practising this sacred discipline in a modern and accessible way. It is a great lesson for them in life. Namaste.

Enjoy this video that Charlotte has put together for you to meditate for just a few minutes each day to find your calm.

Charlotte lives and teaches yoga in France in the mountains of Savoie (Val d’Isère, Tignes and Savoie) and regularly in Paris. She also organises a variety of yoga retreats – May 2014 in Morocco combining Ayurvedic Cooking and Yoga amongst them – and several yoga festivals in 2014 : Val d’Isère in February, Brides les Bains in April, Bordeaux in May.

For more information : www.yogawithaltitude.blogspot.com

Check out this lovely video of Charlotte: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=36IWqe_BunQ

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