As mothers, we spend so much time taking care of others that it can be easy to forget to take care of ourselves. When I became a mum, I found that I suddenly lacked the time for a lot of basic things … like taking showers and drinking a hot cup of tea... let alone the time to do anything that would nurture my wellbeing….like aromatherapy baths or yoga classes. I had this beautiful baby girl, but also a fledgling business to run and finding the time and energy for my pre-baby ashtanga practice was impossible.
I undoubtedly wore rose-tinted glasses in anticipation of motherhood. Of course, I was aware of the impending sleepless nights and all the nappies and feeding that would be involved but I imagined I would get up at dawn to practice while the baby slept blissfully, that we would lie quietly side by side Savasana-ing on the yoga mat, that she would sit calmly snuggled into my chest while I held meetings and wait patiently in her buggy as I worked on sketches for the new collection. Any mums reading this by now will be laughing at my naiveté and looking back now as a more experienced, more practical, mum-of-three I can only laugh at myself.
What I didn’t realize was that giving birth would strip me of my individuality – there was no longer me, only us – and while I adored this transition and loved this tiny person more than words can ever say, at times it was really hard to cope. When you are used to doing what you want to (say, dropping into a lunch time yoga class), eating what you want to when you want to and having a satisfying day at work and doing all of that on a full night’s sleep…to suddenly lose all this freedom and control can make you sad, resentful, confused, frustrated, guilty…not because you don’t love being a mum now – it’s just such a huge transition to make and to make sense of….
All of a sudden, I was responsible for this teeny, tiny person who was literally sucking the life force out of me – both from endless feeding and from my desire to make her the happiest and most loved little being on the planet.
I’m not sure exactly what changed my mindset but one day something just clicked and I realized I needed to return to my yoga – just maybe, in a different way. I had yoga-ed consistently throughout my pregnancy and maybe it would still be there (fingers crossed) waiting for me if I could just make the time. My instincts were right - my years of practice really came in to support me, above and beyond the physical. Certainly, my strong body definitely helped me recover quickly after birth but it was more than that, yoga simply helped me feel like me again.
Over the years, I have since found ways to squeeze in yoga whenever I can, even if I can’t get to a class. Mostly, this means practicing at home on my own, and sometimes I’ll follow along with a video online. The following are six tips to help you fit yoga into your ever-evolving, ever-busy mum-life.
1. Rethink your idea of what your ‘yoga practice’ should look like
If you want to carve out some regular time in your schedule for yoga (or any kind of workout, in fact) you will undoubtedly need to rethink your practice. If you used to go to 90 minute classes that involved some travel, changing and showering time – you may have to downscale to a 20 minute online home yoga class. Your practice could become a meditative walk in nature, 30 minutes of energizing asanas, or even 10 minutes of pranayama – and it can change every day. As you become more realistic about your time, you will broaden your definition of what constitutes a “practice.” Make these practices achievable within the current framework of your life, so you can step off the merry-go-round of feeling guilty about taking too much time away from your children, then feeling guilty for not taking care of yourself. Remember that a yoga practice only takes minutes. If we stress less about not having enough time, strangely we have more time.
2. Remember being a busy mum with no time to herself is not forever
As my lovely, wise mum always reminds me, make the most of every single precious second with your children as they grow up much, much too quickly. Before we know it our beautiful kids are too cool, too busy, too big for us to take to the park, read bedtime stories to and smother in kisses. Soon we’ll be empty-nesters and we’ll have more free time than we’ve ever wanted to have on our hands to go to yoga classes…
3. New mums - take advantage of your baby’s nap time.
Everyone tells you to sleep when your baby sleeps, this is sensible advice in the first week or two when you are still in that blissful new baby bubble, but after that nap-time is your time to get stuff done. Put yoga on that to-do list, ten minutes of restorative poses can work wonders and this can build gradually even to a full sequence. Taking care of your mind and body is just as important as getting that load in the wash—it’s a necessity, not an extravagance.
4. Mums of school age kids - get up early, really early
I love those quiet, peaceful minutes that belong solely to me. I don’t do it every day, but two or three mornings a week I’ll wake up an hour early and roll out my mat for 45 minutes or an hour before I make my tea and wake up everyone else. It’s a pretty amazing way to start the day and wonderful habit to develop.
5. Get the kids involved – especially tweens and teens
My kids have all grown up doing yoga and all have their own mats and props. They go to yoga classes and clubs, practice yoga with me at home and on holiday. I’ve never been really strict about making them practice regularly or seriously, it’s just a part of our lives. My aim has always been to inspire them and show them how yoga can have such a positive effect on their health and wellbeing. When they were really small, they loved having fun with yoga and making bendy, animal poses. Now, they are getting older they know it can make them stronger and more flexible and how it can help them calm down and feel less anxious. We use yoga to wake us up and calm us down. On a boring, grey Sunday we often practice sun saluations together to lift our spirits. After a hectic day at school and activities, we often do a few restorative poses before bed to settle us all down.
And as my first little baby grows up and is teetering on the edge of becoming a teenage, I witness the pressures her and her friends are under from every direction to be “perfect”. For Maya and children of this age, I am convinced practicing yoga and mindfulness is something we should be teaching them to help them copy with exam pressure and issues associated with body confidence and self-esteem.
6. Accept help and support
Lean on your family, friends and partner for help. We all need a break sometimes and I know I am a better mum for taking some “me” time to reconnect with myself. If you are lucky to have supportive people in your life, don’t be afraid ask if he or she will watch your kids for an hour while you go to a yoga class and offer to return the favour (in a form that works for them!). Supporting one another is what we do for the ones we love.
I hope to continue to use my yoga practice to support me on my journey of motherhood and to inspire my children to lead healthy, balanced lives. How has motherhood changed you and your yoga practice? I would love to hear from about your journey.
Namaste to all the beautiful mums, the tired mums, the busy mums, the worried mums, the proud mums, the mums-to-be, the newly-promoted to grandma-status mums – all the loving mums everywhere just doing their best, Lucy xxx