I turned to yoga classes as something of an experiental oasis when I first moved to New York. I’d hopped from the Ivory Tower in Western Massachussetts, to India, to the middle of Manhattan in just a few months, faking my NYC way in a slick little pencil skirt suit (pieced together, rather impressively, at Forever21). Once there, I was (newly, deliberately) single, and actively social, but felt uprooted—which I was, though also deliberately—and existentially alone. It takes time to build friendships that offer real sustenance, and to find one’s way around New York’s great terrain. It takes stamina to ride the trains up and down the island, to keep pace with its mad rush. I’d sweet-talked my way into a pretty ballin’ first job—nice title, no responsibility, little oversight—but felt surprisingly sapped by the nine to five scene. I spent my lunch hours wandering the Garment District, and frequently headed directly to a yoga studio after work. I didn’t go there to find a boyfriend or to meet trendy people. In fact, I deflected advances on both fronts; I’m extroverted by nature, but what I sought there was space instead of more interaction. I found a way to plant my feet firmly on the ground in a time when the big, typically ‘familiar’ components of life were all simultaneously in flux. Doing this in the context of classes, too, rather than in my own apartment, made me feel connected to the city and its pulsing, ceaseless activity. Afterward, I’d step back into the noise and the early-evening buzz, open to where my life had brought me—to where I’d brought my life—and ready to make it all really, rightly mine.
A couple of years later, I was living in Brooklyn with Aaron, settled into a more interesting job, and authentically connected to the city through deep, lasting friendships, creative exploits and accumulated personal history. I maintained a semi-regular yoga practice at home, using DVDs, and took occasional classes at the gym (helping to justify the outrageous monthly membership rates I was paying), just for fun. Then, while pregnant, I once again needed something ‘centering’—which I realize is fluffy yoga-speak, but is regardless a very real human need-- in the midst of my busy city life; I did prenatal yoga at home, using a DVD by Shiva Rea, several times a week. It kept me calm, and kept me in shape; I looked damn good through my pregnancy, and felt good, too. By D-Day, I was primed to push like a champ, and to bounce back physically without incident (done, and done).
Of course, having a baby totally upends one’s ‘centering’ strategies in their previously stable forms—at the very least, it requires modifying those strategies to work within a dramatically new set of circumstances. But making those modifications is essential. Lack of sleep, lack of time alone, and lack of time in general are major stressors, right ladies? Being a mom is the most demanding of jobs—physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually—and many of us are juggling other jobs along with it. Yoga with infants is a cool thing; it helps to get post-partum kinks out, and it’s generally fairly slow, and structured so that the babies are incorporated to some degree. I liked it. As Kaspar became mobile, however, I found myself kind of frustrated in mom-and-toddler classes by the collision of my desire to get a real yoga workout coming up against his desire to maintain constant contact with me while crawling under, over and around my moving limbs.
Click read more below to find out how I got the balance right.
I noticed that some of the other moms, when their babies whined to be picked up, or threw toys at other kids, wound up looking more stressed during class than they had when they arrived; their hopes for relaxation had been visibly dashed (been there). That made for some interesting dynamics. There was also some of that weird mom-scene silent judging going on, as people addressed their own kids’ behaviors or collected others’ milestone stats, but I didn’t really care about what the other moms were doing, since I was there with a friend, who I genuinely enjoy (and, for what it’s worth, I did make another mom friend in the class, who I’ve maintained contact with since).
I still make a point—when I’m feeling pissy, or just need to get a physical fix—to do yoga sans bébé a couple of times a week. If that happens at 11 pm in my living room, fine. I even make it out to classes once in a while, or— even better—to yoga parties like these (I went with that same friend… so, so fun…). I’m continuing to do yoga with Kaspar, though, because it’s clear that he likes it. He breaks out Downward Dog while dancing (as per the video at the top of this post), and we play together with these yoga activity cards from Barefoot Books: he picks a card, I do the pose (or pretend I’m an animal or whatever the card says to do), and then he mimics, usually falls over, and laughs. Yoga’s something I enjoy, and, yes, experience as ‘centering.’ It’s gotten me through tough transitional life moments and helped me stay supple, and less stressed, the rest of the time. I’m glad Kaspar will at least be familiar with it, that it’ll be in his back pocket for dealing with his own challenges and stressors, as he grows and experiences those things, in a healthy and constructive way.
Are you a yoga fan? Have you been able to continue practicing with kids in the mix? Have you done yoga with your kids? Was it fun? What are your go-to stress-management techniques in the midst of parenting small children? How do you approach imparting some of these strategies to them? I look forward to your thoughts!