Mindful Parenting on and off the Mat
Raising children can be hectic and can sometimes feel like being caught in the winds of a hurricane. The mindfulness developed through practicing yoga cultivates the ability to find our way back to a calm center and to parent from a place of greater balance, awareness, and inner strength.
Some days a baby may need to be fed, held, soothed, and diaper-changed through an entire yoga class. Rather than feel frustrated, the mom can take the opportunity to focus completely on being together, breathing, calming the body and the mind, and appreciating the sweet, sacred, and fleeting nature of this time. This is a beautiful practice of yoga, worthy of honoring (even without the many poses one can do while caring for baby, if she chooses).
Ping Moscovici, who is expecting her third child, says, "Doing yoga helps me notice whether I am taking care of myself or not, even while attending to my children's needs." Gabrielle Chernis, elementary school teacher and mother of a 10-month old, says, "It's hard to dodge mainstream attitudes and perceptions about parenting. Yoga gets us back on track when we feel derailed—it guides us to find our own track and respond to our babies intuitively and consciously."
Alison Lufkin, interior designer and mother of a five-year-old and nine-month-old twins, took up yoga after her first child was born. She practiced regularly through her second pregnancy and has continued both on her own and with her babies. "I was in a constant state of panic with my first child. Yoga has helped me be a more calm, grounded, and centered parent now, even with twins, and has really deepened my connection with my babies. I've noticed an incredible difference in how I deal with day-to-day life."
A Lifelong Practice
Parenting mindfully is not about mastering a skill and being done with the learning. It's a lifelong practice. Knowing how to maintain center, or return to it when thrown off, is essential. In their book Everyday Blessings: The Inner Work of Mindful Parenting (Hyperion, 1997), Jon Kabat-Zinn, Ph.D., and Myla Kabat-Zinn, R.N., write that as children grow, "They seem to challenge every place that we might be holding an expectation, a fixed opinion, a cherished belief…. If we are able to look at our children with openness and receptivity, and see the purity of life expressing itself through them, at any age, it can wake us up at any moment to their true nature and to our own…. [Mindful parenting] is a deep and abiding inner work, a spiritual training all its own."
As parents, we will likely continue to judge and to lose our balance at times. But if we practice self-care, reflection, and centering, we will be modeling these practices for our children, and helping ourselves meet the moment in a manner more aligned with our deepest intentions. Our children—and we ourselves—can only thrive.
Kari Marble teaches prenatal and postnatal yoga classes in San Francisco. She is a certified yoga teacher, massage therapist, instructor of infant massage communication, and educator with a passionate specialization in the childbearing year and healthy family living. The smitten mama of Kaya (5) and Jaiden (2), Kari can be reached at email@example.com.
Mom is wearing top in watermelon by Prana and pant by She Beest, available at See Jane Run, 24th street, San francisco; Baby in earthtone and brown striped pants by www.malinas.com. Mom is wearing cropped pant in cocoa from Lululemon Athletica and green tank from Gaiam Organix; Baby in earthtone pants from www.malinas.com
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