Yoga for Parents of Babies and Toddlers

Photo of young woman doing tree pose in front of a yellow wall. Text: "Yoga for Parents of Babies and Toddlers / We'll Eat You Up, We Love You So"

I love you all enough to take a photo of myself in spandex. I just couldn’t post a stock photo of a perfectly toned woman doing dancer pose on a rock. 

I’m a big fan of yoga. I find it helps me focus my mind, be more aware of my body’s relationship in space with other objects, and provide fun and balanced strength training. While I no longer have time to take classes, I try to fit in a solo session once a week. Since I’ve become a mom, I’ve found I have aches and stress in spot I never did before. Here are a few of the actions I find stress my body out the most and the yoga poses I’ve found helpful.

Note: I am not a yoga professional. Please listen to your body and be aware of its capacity.

Squatting down to talk to kids at their level
When my prenatal yoga teacher suggested squatting as a labor position, I almost laughed at the absurdity. I could barely squat without falling over; how the hell was I going to while in the throes of labor pains? While I certainly didn’t use it in the birthing process, squatting down to talk to my toddler has become part of my everyday routine. To resolve the tightness in my hips and thighs, hip openers like pigeon and lizard are very helpful. If you aren’t very flexible in these areas (like me), you can also do adapted versions of these that aren’t as demanding.

Kneeling for the bath
Before yoga, my leg muscles were so tight that I couldn’t kneel for a single minute. But as it’s the easiest way to bathe a small child, these days I have 15 minutes of kneeling daily. To stretch out my legs, I use vajrasana, thunderbolt, or kneeling pose. Doing it as part of a yoga practice forces you not to lean on anything for support and allows you to focus on your breathing rather than a small person splashing water at you.

Having my son sit on my lap
Before having a toddler, I always took sitting cross-legged for granted. But as he’s gotten heavier, having him sit on my lap has become more challenging. My feet fall asleep and my legs ache after the third or fourth book. The hip openers above also help here, but the most effective thing I’ve found is butterfly (also known as bound angle) pose. Just putting the soles of my feet together and very slowly pushing my chest towards them is very helpful. Don’t worry if your knees feel absurdly high up in the air – that’s when you need it most! When I did prenatal yoga, the lady in her third trimester on the video had her knees far closer to the ground than I could when I was in high school.

Carrying my baby in my arms when he was a newborn
As a newborn, Sprout cried if I put him down for more than 30 seconds. As a result, my arms, shoulders and back got quite a workout. Shoulder openers stretched out my muscles that were in a bunch all day. I find extended side angle pose particularly useful, as it’s relatively simple and you can really focus on reaching up.

Carrying my son around on my hip as a toddler
With Sprout much heavier now, carrying him is more like an anarobic workout than an aerobic one. The days I haul him around for more than a few minutes, my lower back is always sore. Doing cat/cow poses nice and slow works out some of the kinks. Plus, Sprout thinks it’s funny if I make the appropriate animal noises with them.

General exhaustion
Being a parent – being a person – is freaking tiring. Sometimes you just want to feel strong and powerful when your mind and body feel the opposite. Warrior II makes me feel this way on even the crappiest of days. Grounding my feet solidly on the floor and spreading my arms open wide gives me a sense of regal composure that sure as heck doesn’t come to me naturally.

Those are some of my favorite poses. Do you have any favorite yoga poses or stretches to get over our parental aches and pains?

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