Our popular contributor Kara-Leah writes about all kinds of things, from home practice and parenting to the etiquettes of yoga class and the ethics of yoga. One of her specialities is the psychology of maintaing a home yoga practice – she’s even written a book on it, Forty Days of Yoga. It’s something she knows about intimately, from the inside out. This article was written five years ago, when her son was still a baby.
by Kara-Leah Grant
It’s something other mothers have been asking me for the last few months – how do I maintain my home yoga practice (crucial as a yoga teacher) when I’ve got a 9 month old baby boy, and shared custody of a seven year old girl?
It’s simple really.
I make my practice the priority for the day.
It’s my one must-do every single day. Everything else can wait.
In practice, this isn’t easy, and requires discipline. But it is simple, and it applies not just to parents with young children, but to anyone with multiple demands on their time.
I didn’t figure this out straight away though.
Post-pregnancy, an emergency c-section meant I was unable to do any asana for 5 weeks and my practice consisted of snatching half an hour each day of Yoga Nidra. Some days I missed, some days I was incredibly grateful for doing the practice.
As Samuel got older, and we moved down to Dunedin and took shared-custody of a seven year old, my daily yoga practice suffered. It was so easy to find reasons not to practice – there’s not enough space, I don’t feel good enough, there’s not enough time. Some weeks the only yoga I did was in a class – fine for a student, not so fine for a teacher.
By this time though, Samuel was getting into a pretty good routine. Every morning and every afternoon, he sleeps for at least an hour, sometimes two or three. My inconsistent practice was beginning to get me down, and I realised that I had to make a commitment. I had to make my practice the most important thing I did every day. And the easiest way to do that was to hit the mat the second Samuel fell asleep, either in the morning, or in the afternoon.
No messing around.
No doing the housework, the accounts, the website, the email, the facebook…
If I didn’t take that opportunity, there often didn’t come another. If I made excuses, or put it off, or didn’t feel like it, I’d be cursing myself later in the day when I realised I’d missed my chance.
In this way, being restricted in when I practice yoga has actually seen my home practice improve. As we all well know, getting on the mat is most of the challenge, once I’m on there, I don’t want to get off. I can quite happily practice for three hours, although it’s rare I get that long.
One of the most challenging aspects of grabbing the opportunity to practice when it arises has been managing my food intake.
Yoga has to be practiced on a mostly empty stomach so I’ve got to try and make sure that I eat at times which keep me in a ‘ready-to-practice’ state at key times. I failed miserably at this today. It’s 9.30am and Samuel’s just gone down for his morning sleep, right as my breakfast finished cooking. I’ve been up for a couple of hours, and it would’ve made more sense to eat earlier… doh! So I’ve likely missed this morning’s opportunity, and will now be very careful about when I eat lunch to get in this afternoon’s chance!
After sharing this tip about prioritizing your practice during baby map time with a fellow yoga teacher at The Dunedin Yoga Studio, she asked my how I managed to get savasana in every time. She never knows when her baby is going to wake up, and he often does before she’s done her closing sequence.
This is definitely one of the biggest challenges – a woken baby waits for no woman nor man! I’ve got my tricks though…
- The jolly jumper – after a sleep, Samuel can be quite happy in the Jolly Jumper, watching me practice. This gives me another twenty minutes of so, which is perfect for a closing sequence.
- The high chair – whether he’s got toys or something to munch on, Samuel’s quite happy to hang out here for awhile.
- Toys – sometimes Samuel’s quite content to bang away on his drums or mess around with his sister’s guitar while I finish my practice beside him.
- The mother/baby combo practice – it’s not quite the same, doing savasana with a baby on your belly, but in a pinch, it’s better than nothing. And when daily practice is your priority, freeing yourself up to accept better than nothing can lead to some amazing practices.
In the last few months, grabbing the first opportunity to practice that arises during the day has taught me a few things about practicing yoga at home.
Or maybe it’s reminded me of a few things that I already knew about home yoga practice.
- There’s always a reason not to practice.
- This opportunity might be the only one I get today.
- Even after a fairly steady home practice of five or more years, my mind still loves to resist getting on the mat.
- No matter how I’m feeling when I do get on the mat, I always feel better afterwards.
- Once I’m on, getting off is the hard thing.
- Daily home practice makes for a better life, hands down.
- I’m the only one in charge of getting me on the mat.
- Thinking, oh I’ll practice later, is resistance and the fast track to missing my daily dose. There is no later. Only now
- I love yoga. Yep, it’s tough getting on that mat, day after day, but damn if it’s not the most amazing thing ever.
So if you’re struggling to maintain your daily home practice because of a busy, demanding life. Set yourself a commitment. Make your practice your priority. Every morning when you wake up, plot your whole day around when you’ll get your practice in. Let everything else shape itself around your mat time. You’ll be amazed at the shift that can happen when daily home practice becomes your reality.
What are you waiting for?
PS. An hour after Samuel went to sleep, my porridge had digested enough and I grabbed the opportunity to just sit in meditation for a few moments. Those few moments turned into a 45 minute seated asana practice with some lovely long holds and sensational shoulder openers. Just letting go of the need to have a 90 minute window opens up some amazing practices of all varieties!
Kara-Leah is a writer and yoga teacher who has always been infinitely curious about the make-up of the human psyche and body. Regular yoga helped her heal and recover from chronic back issues, including a spinal fusion at age 16, and two episodes of psychosis at age 29.
Her daily home yoga practice began in earnest when people kept asking her to teach them yoga. She’s since trained as a teacher with Shiva Rea, and immersed herself in practicing, teaching yoga and writing about yoga. Kara-Leah lives just outside of Queenstown, New Zealand with her son Samuel.
She’s the publisher of The Yoga Lunchbox and published her first book, Forty Days of Yoga – Breaking down the barriers to a home yoga practice in 2013. Her second book, The No-More-Excuses Guide to Yoga, has just been released. She’s also a regular contributor to the Elephant Journal.