Before becoming a parent, did you have any idea how difficult parenting would be? I had no idea! I had years of training and experience working with children—but that still didn’t prepare me for the daily challenges of parenting a spirited, strong-willed, and sensitive child. Over the years, I feel my impatience, frustration, anger, and sadness has blocked my intimate connection with my daughter. At times, I’ve been so caught up in my own feelings that I forgot to see life from her perspective.
That’s why practicing yoga and mindfulness has been such a miracle for both of us. These practices help me open up to my daughter, to accept her where she’s at, and to ultimately connect with her through laughter, movement, and—the simplest way possible—through our breath.
Yoga and Mindfulness Practices for Families
First of all, please remember that practicing yoga and mindfulness is a journey. It’s not a trick or tool that works overnight. Rather, it’s a lifestyle and a commitment to living a life of kindness, compassion, and happiness. Even yogis make mistakes. But through these practices, we learn to forgive ourselves, learn from our mistakes, and come back to what’s important in our lives. The key is to start these yoga practices yourself first. Your child will feed off your enthusiasm and the subtle changes they seee the practices have on you.
1. Move together
Partner yoga poses provide an excellent way to connect through movement. You could start with Downward-Facing Dog Pose when you need to turn your world upside-down and change your perspective. You might find your child practicing her Down Dog underneath you, beside you, or even behind you with her feet climbing up your legs. Allow yourselves to be silly, explore movement together, and use your imagination. For example, my daughter wants to be a ballerina when she grows up, so we made up this Ballet Yoga sequence after reading ballerina books: Tree Pose, Dancer’s Pose, and Boat Pose. Follow your child’s interests, grab a yoga card deck, and have fun practicing yoga poses together!
Here are 5 simple partner yoga poses to try with your children;
Introduce a daily morning meditation, sitting silently while counting your deep breaths. Create a comfortable and visually appealing space in your house. Start with just five minutes each morning (or another time in the day that suits you), and work up to longer periods of silence to reap the benefits of meditation. A couple of years ago, I drew the line in the sand and knew that I needed help as a parent. I wasn’t coping with my daughter’s tantrums and decided to turn to meditation. I found myself better able to respond to my daughter’s needs and calm my own mind during difficult situations. Some days, she’s still asleep when I’m meditating. Sometimes she’ll fidget around me or read a book. I love the days when she comes to sit quietly on my lap, and she can feel the rise and fall of my belly and chest on her back. Sometimes, she tries a few deep breaths, too. Inevitably, the practice ends in cuddles and giggles. Regardless of how she interacts with my morning practice, the effects of meditation have ripple effects throughout the house. It’s like magic fairy dust—truly.
3. Be mindful
Mindfulness is often described as living in the present moment with curiosity, without judgment. As my daughter’s karate teacher guided her class the other day, “Wherever you are, be there.” We’ve been using this phrase all the time now to bring us back to the present moment. I’ll talk to my daughter when I catch my mind whirling with pontificating about the past or planning the future. Yesterday, I explained that the bathwater overflowed because I was rushing around and not paying attention! By talking together about times when we’re not living in the present, it’s helping me to model how to be more mindful, aware of my surroundings, and in control of my emotions.
Guided visualizations help relax our minds and bodies. My daughter has been having a lot of nightmares recently and has been scared to go to sleep. She’s been asking for stories about unicorns and mermaids so she can fall asleep with something happy in her mind. As I lay next to her, we go through guided visualization stories (inspired by my days as a teacher) to imagine exploring fairy and mermaid worlds. These relaxation stories help us both to unwind from our busy days and bring us together in cuddles. We also do body scans, where we bring attention to each part of body and say good night to our bodies and our minds. No matter how the day has gone for both of us, we treasure this intimate time together to reconnect and be grateful for our lives.
It’s hard to believe that something as simple as breathing could have such a profound effect on parenting. Since I began my daily meditation practice, I find that I’m more likely to come back to mindful breathing during the day. And I’ve been teaching my daughter numerous breathing techniques to help get through her meltdowns and tantrums. Again, this is a journey, and it may not happen for you overnight. Our favorite breathing techniques are ones that she’s help to make up—like smelling hot chocolate (inhale) and blowing the hot chocolate to cool it down (exhale) or smelling a flower (inhale) and blowing the petals (exhale). We’ve also used a countdown to five using our hands. And at night, we’ll lay in bed with our hands on our chests, eyes closed, and do a few deep breaths. Try a few breathing techniques to see which ones work for you both. Just this morning, when I was getting impatient with my daughter for not getting ready for school, she said, “Stop and breathe, Mom.” How about that for getting your advice given back to you! And sure enough, a few deep breaths helped to avoid a momma tantrum. She felt proud that she made a difference to me, too.
Does practicing yoga make parenting challenges go away? Well, no, but the practice has helped me to significantly reduce my momma tantrums, better appreciate the moment, and respond more compassionately to my daughter’s needs. Ultimately, when I’m practicing a yoga life, I feel more connected to my daughter. It’s not perfect, but I aim to be a better mom each and every day!
About Giselle: Giselle Shardlow is the author of Kids Yoga Stories. Her yoga books for kids get children learning, moving, and having fun. Giselle draws from her experiences as a teacher, traveler, yogi, and mom to write the yoga stories found in her Kids Yoga Stories store or on Amazon worldwide. The purpose of her yoga books is to foster happy, healthy, and globally educated children. She lives in Boston with her husband and daughter. You can also connect with Giselle on Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram.