Fun and Fitness with the Whole Family
I remember when I was pregnant, and while working hard in Mandy Colbert’s Prenatal Yoga class, she would remind us that the real hard work begins once our babies arrive. I can’t emphasize enough how true that statement is. A regular fitness routine benefits parents and their children in a multitude of ways.
As our family begins to venture into the great adventure that is “the toddler years,” I find myself wanting to be better, stronger and faster in every way. As this little human I spawned grows by the minute, keeping up with him demands more energy and focus than I ever thought possible. I sometimes joke that I lost my baby weight by wrestling him in and out of his clothes.
In all seriousness, becoming a mother has given me a much deeper appreciation for my personal movement practice, which for me, is centered in yoga and dance. The benefits our family enjoys by incorporating regular movement activities into our lives could be obtained through other physical activities than the ones I will mention. The main point I want to make is that when parents take time to maintain a regular movement routine, especially one that includes their children, there are a host of benefits for the whole family.
One of the most challenging things about being a new parent, especially a new mother, is creating the time and space for one’s practice. For the time being, it is not realistic for me to lose myself in the dance studio for hours on end the way I could before I became a mama. Now, my yoga mat is a permanent fixture in the living room, and I take as many opportunities as I can to get a few poses in throughout the day. If my son is napping or playing contentedly by himself, I can get a practice in that can range anywhere from 15 minutes to over an hour. Because I am often practicing where he can see me, he has started to imitate many of my movements. He will often drag a yoga mat out on his own volition, and at 16 months imitates many poses, including downward dog, warrior 3, Hanumanasana, and he’s even attempted a head stand!
I incorporate simple yoga poses, chants and breath work into our regular routine. We have many simple games that revolve around a yoga pose, and they are great for re-directing energy. Chanting and breath work are helpful when both parent and child could use an emotional reset. As a family, we also stay active in other ways, we enjoy going for walks and swimming. We kick a soccer ball around. We turn the music up and have impromptu dance parties as well.
Including lots of physical play into your child’s routine helps direct their abundance of energy in appropriate ways. In my own experience, I notice that mischief making is often born out of boredom.
Children that move their bodies frequently enjoy many health benefits including increased immunity, good digestion, restful sleep and emotional balance. In addition to this, the risk of illness or obesity, as well as the development of serious health problems such as diabetes, are greatly diminished. By modeling our love of movement, we instill in our children a love to move, which builds healthy habits that will stay with them for life.
When I was growing up, my parents made a point to take us on lots of long hikes. They also love riding bicycles, skiing, swimming, and they are still very physically active people. I am so grateful I grew up in a household that loved moving. It was an activity that bonded us as a family.
It is important that parents make time for self-care, and in my opinion, taking time for a movement practice one loves is essential. When I am able to make time for my practice, even if it’s just a half an hour where I get to be present with my breath, I am much more patient with my son. I am much more focused and organized. I feel happier and more resilient in stressful situations, probably because of all the endorphins. I have more stamina, and I feel good in my body, which is crucial for me, because breast feeding and baby wearing are very physically demanding. I’ve no doubt the demands will be ever changing, and no less challenging. I’m grateful my practice is there to keep me in balance, and for the ways regular movement nurtures the bonds of our family.
I’ve included some great kid’s yoga resources below, as well as a link to local Parks and Recreation programs in the area.