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Yoga for the Busy Mama

Credit: Rebecca Peters Photography

I’ve been very unfair to yoga, not giving it the proper credit it deserves. I often found myself laughing on the inside at some of the moves, finding it difficult to take it seriously. I wasn’t able to move the way I’d seen others do. Being so comfortable with high-energy high-impact workouts, slowing it down often felt pointless and a waste of my time. If I was going to spend an hour of my day, the only one I have for me, I wanted to sweat and be gasping for my breath rather than slowly shifting my body from one side to another.

My father in law became extremely involved in his yoga practice over the past couple of years, slowly bringing my mother in law and myself on board. At first I felt completely out of my element, like I didn’t belong. Then, he invited me to a hot yoga class. I fell in love after my first class. I’ll admit, my favorite part is savasana on a warm floor with a cold towel after a tough class with nothing but calming music and the sound of my heart beating, all “to-do’s” out the door. My body felt the poses for days to follow, and I gained some confidence to walk a little taller but also to not be embarrassed to say I’m going to yoga.

I’m not doing as much yoga as I’d like to be, and I’ve often found my busy schedule to be my excuse. So I checked in with a friend, Cara Cowsert, who is certified in yoga and happens to be a mom of two herself. When I’m not obsessing over her on social media, I connected with her for a few pointers.

How to Benefit and Incorporate a Little More Yoga Into Your Life

FBM: Your social media is blowing up with moves I can only dream about. When did you first fall in love with yoga?

I know, it’s crazy! My yoga journey began when my youngest went to kindergarten. I have two kiddos (Gianna, 9, and Eli, 7), and since that first day of school I really took my practice to another level. I actually had some me time during the day. Yoga was my outlet. I had a connection I was not aware of until I began going consistently. I didn’t know much about yoga, but every time I went I felt closer and closer to myself. We as moms NEED that time. Having children changes our lives in many ways and doing yoga really brought me back to me.

FBM: “My body doesn’t bend that way” — I’m sure you hear this all the time. What is your best advice for someone interested in beginning yoga?

Everyone says “I can’t,” “I won’t” or “I haven’t tried yoga because I am not flexible.” That is exactly the reason you should try it. No one goes to yoga for the first time and nails flying pigeon or revolved half moon. Patience is everything. Honestly, yoga isn’t even about being able to do the crazy arm balances or twists and binds. To me yoga is about uniting my mind, body and soul. Just try. Once you lay in savasana at the end of my class you’ll want to come back for more. Haven’t you seen the saying: I’m just here for the savasana.

FBM: How can we moms incorporate yoga into our everyday?

Any time! Yes, going to a class is my favorite but that’s not always an option, especially if you stay home with babies. Yoga can be a form of meditation or poses or breathing or a combination of them. I LOVE finding a quiet space in my home to sit on my mat. I may not do anything but just sit. That is my me time. Sometimes I light a candle or listen to music. Other times I get on YouTube and find video to practice with. Even the kids like playing around with those. But my favorite is when I practice with no boundaries. No goals, no agenda, no nothing. Just my breath and movements. That takes a while to get comfortable with. But again, patience.

FBM: What are some of the benefits we can expect from practicing yoga?

From happiness to strength to posture, it’s limitless on the benefits. I wouldn’t go into a class thinking, I’m going to lose weight, or all of my back pain is going to disappear. Each class we set an intention, whether it’s a word — flexibility, courage, peace, trust — or maybe a prayer for a loved one. During class I really go back to your intention. Focusing on that really guides you where you need to be. The physical benefits come with time but emotional benefits can be immediate!

FBM: Yoga is great for kids. My son does it at school and absolutely loves showing us his moves. What suggestions do you have for sharing the practice with your kids?

I’m obsessed with kids doing yoga. They don’t overthink it like we do! It’s playtime for them. Who doesn’t want to play in down dog and crow and triangle? The pose names are fun for them! I have these awesome yoga cards for kids with the names of the poses and other activities on them. We get those out and play or they just get mats out and start moving. I love to tell them their mat is their own space. Do anything you want!

Cara’s Favorite Poses

Cara’s classes are enjoyable and energetic. We thought we’d bring you some of her favorite at home poses to incorporate into your daily routine.

1. Happy baby. This is super fun for the kids. Lie down on your back. Hug your knees into your chest. Then press your feet up toward the sky but keep your knees bent and spread your legs apart. Grab for your toes or the inside or outside of your feet, gently pulling your knees toward the ground. I love to rock side to side and even slowly straighten my legs one at a time or even both. This is great to do in the morning while still in bed. As mamas we all need a little hip opener in the morning.

2. Wide leg forward fold. One of my faves! Stand up and spread your feet wide apart with your toes turned slightly in. Place your hands on your hips. As you gaze up take a big inhale and puff out your chest. As you exhale, fold forward with a flat back and strong core. Here you can find your ankles or big toes with your fingers and just let gravity pull your head toward the ground. Relax your neck and breathe. Once you’ve tried it you can adjust your stance to find what your body needs. When you want to come out of this remember to place your hands on your waist or out at a T and inhale up with a flat back.

3. Malasana (garland pose). This one you will love or hate, but those haters will slowly fall in love. Remember, PATIENCE. Stand with your feet about 2 feet apart, heels in toes out. Find a good low squat. Then slowly lower your bottom toward the ground. This pose is challenging but feels amazing. Sometimes our heels come up off the ground and with more flexibility your feet stay flat. Once you’ve found your spot, bring your hands together at heart’s center. Lengthen your spine so you’re not curving your back and remember to breathe. Enjoy this yummy hip stretch!

The most important take away I had from a class was knowing that everyone is there to practice to their own abilities. No one was judging what I was doing on the mat, nor were they even concerned about my practice. Everyone is there to take the guidance from the instructor and perform it to the best of their bodies. Little by little I try a deeper stretch. If I’m ready, awesome. If not, I keep going and try again. It’s slow, it’s steady, but who ever said speed is what wins anyway?

How do you fit yoga into your life? —Jennifer

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