Since becoming a mom eight and a half years ago, there have been plenty of things shoved down the list of priorities. Non-practical footwear, daily showers, deep cleaning the car, and most unfortunately, my personal yoga practice. Juggling the needs of a household makes actually getting to class a near monumental feat. Alternatively, I've tried practicing at home with varying pitiful results. When the kids are home, no amount of zen could drown out their shrieking. And on the rare occasion that I'm home without them, I've found myself in down dog, peering under the couch and shifting my focus from my breath to the Land of Lost Toys defended dutifully by the Army of Dust Bunnies. Before I know it, I've abandoned the mat and started vacuuming, which then leads to mopping and dusting all the surfaces and wait, why are you people home already? So for now, the mat waits and I've accepted the Yoga of Parenting.
Location: Anywhere you have the option of changing a diaper on the floor.
Execution: There comes a point in the life of every infant when they suddenly realize HOLY SMOKES. THINGS ARE HAPPENING. No longer passive balls of mush, the days of leisurely changing their oft soiled pants are o-v-e-r. Instead, you find yourself seemingly wrestling a trout smothered in Vaseline 6 to 10 times per day. And while the frequency at which the task needs to be performed declines until potty training, their strength and size increases exponentially. To use the pose that counters this, with the baby/toddler on the floor, place your feet gently alongside their torso, sandwiching them in snugly enough that flipping and squirming away is not an option. Both hands now free to utilize wipes and apply the required creams and diaper, lean forward to perform the task, deepening the forward bend as you exhale.
Location: Theoretically, the bathroom, but beggars can't be choosers.
Execution: Prepare the toothbrush with the requisite pea size dab of toothpaste, and attempt to wrangle child into the bathroom. Breathing steadily as they wiggle to escape, sit on the toilet or edge of the bathtub with the freakishly strong beast on your lap. Extend your non-brushing arm across their body while engaging your core. This will keep you from dropping them clear onto the cold tile floor considering toddlers penchant for shortsightedness in matters of what they deem self preservation. The dominant hand controls the toothbrush while the breath keeps you present, avoiding shoving the brush clear down their throat as the squirm. The cycle begins again 12 hours later.
Meal Clean Up Squat
Location: Beneath any table at which a toddler takes a meal.
Execution: After the child is done rubbing his or her face with the meal you so lovingly prepared, fistfuls laying clammy and discarded up to 5 feet away from the epicenter, approach the farthest flung pieces. With feet hip distance apart, slowly lower the hips toward the floor. As you exhale, collect all scraps within reach. Rise up as you inhale, exhale at the top. Step to next patch and repeat.
The Backseat Twist
Location: In the car, generally moments after yelling a dozen times, "I CAN'T RIGHT NOW! I'M DRIVING."
Execution: Used in the instance of a dropped sippy cup/stuffed animal/shoe or the delivery of snacks, this twist begins at the waist with the right arm outstretched. Exhale deeply as you turn, breathing out the words, "I can't keep helping you. I'm driving." Twist deeper if assisting child directly behind you.
Location: The child's room or wherever they may be sleeping.
Execution: Getting a child to sleep is only half the battle. Keeping them asleep, well, that can be the real feat. This pose is useful in both the initial putting down and in any subsequent need for ushering the child back to slumber. Beginning after the transfer from your arms/boob/apparatus, you gently rest one hand on their body, one foot planted firmly beside their crib/bed. The other foot extends forward toward the escape, (I mean door) with the knee gently bent to a 90 degree angle. Sink the hips slowly to detect any creaks in the floor that may threaten your progress. Reach that same arm forward with intention, and let the gaze follow. Visualize the freedom of a childless evening. Remember to breathe, but make sure it's silent unless you want to ruin everything.
(For any parent out there with the knowledge of whatever sorcery it takes to put them down awake spill it.)
Location: Anywhere, particularly in public places where the embarrassment factor can be high.
Execution: For the times the toddler dissolves at the injustice of having to leave a beloved location, or naps have been skipped, or the school-aged child kept himself together for an entirely long day and just cannot for one minute longer. This cleansing breath is an inhale through the nose and an audible exhale through the nose with the lips closed. With each cycle of breath, release your inner calm, cool, collected, Claire Huxtable (80's pantsuit not required).
Like the mat version that came before, don't forget to give yourself a few minutes of recovery after practice. Feel free to lay down, face up on the floor. But I don't recommend closing your eyes. It helps to be able to see the diapered butt that's guaranteed to plop down squarely onto your face.
Sara chronicles the absurdity that is parenthood and life in general on her blog OddlyWellAdjusted
Follow Sara Goldstein on Twitter: www.twitter.com/sarachasen