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The Truth About Doing Yoga With Children

05/29/2015 02:15 pm ET | Updated May 29, 2016
Jennifer Brenan

Inspired by "Kids Yoga Stories" yoga books and blog, I have started doing yoga with my children. I remembered doing it as a teenager and young adult, and it did wonders for my self-esteem. I thought yoga would be a great way to connect with my children and get into shape at the same time. I found many great apps on my iPad, and we got started. Except it didn't work out the way I thought it would.

If anybody expected us to breathe and do the poses slowly and with grace and reverence... well, maybe that's just not us. This is what doing yoga with two little children (and sometimes a baby) really looks like ...

Imagine you're on your hands and feet with your bottom in the air in the Downward-Facing Dog Pose. You're getting uncomfortable and would like to get down on the ground again, except your toddler decides this is just the right moment to crawl under you and you can't go back on the ground without crushing her. You're trying to explain breathing techniques except the kids aren't concentrating, because they're too busy fighting over toys. You can't get them to finish most of the yoga poses because they start doing jigsaw puzzles. You finally manage to get your children to do something, and then the baby starts to cry.

Sometimes, I wonder why I ever thought this would be a good idea. But then I remember: After all, they're only kids!

My oldest is not even 4, and yet here I am, requiring them to concentrate, deeply, on one task. My 2-year-old has just learned to walk, and I want her to exercise with us even though she's still slightly off-balance. And the baby? well, he's a baby. He doesn't even know what yoga means, and why should he care?

I decide to let go of my expectations. And this is where we start having fun.

We even make up our own yoga poses and sequences: The Head-Bump Pose (stand opposite of each other and then try to bend down and bump your heads in the process), followed by Rolling on the Floor Laughing. We lie on the floor, all three of us together (and sometimes there is a baby lying on my belly), and we hold hands and laugh some more. There are plenty of Cuddle Poses, I'm sure. I stop caring whether the yoga pose is perfect or whether it lasts as long as it should.

Instead, I focus on the fun stuff.

Like roaring like a lion, and making "ssss"-sounds like a snake, and stretching our necks like a giraffe. Now this is something the children can actually relate to, and they want to join me!

We're finally having fun and connecting.

On top of that, my 3-year- old starts doing more and more of the exercises. It's like learning a song. You learn it bits by bits, not all at once. Even my 2-year-old joins in. I do some exercises with the baby as well if I can. We may not be perfectly calm yogis. If you came to look at as, you'd find no concentration, no meditation. You will not see us trying to focus on our breathing. Instead, we are crazy and loud,and chaotic, but I wouldn't change it for the world. I am a funnier, calmer mom because of the exercise, and they have fun with the iPad and pretending to be animals.

It may not be perfect, but I'll take it.

This post originally appeared on Kids Yoga Stories

You can read more of Olga's posts about parenting, living abroad and travelling on her blog, The European Mama.