Practicing With A Toddler: Practical Tips

Updated: Sep 18, 2020

As a registered yoga teacher, I value my time on my mat. But long gone are the days where I practice free from distractions. I am the mother of a toddler, and if I want to practice during the narrow window provided in our day, my son joins me on the mat. It's also worth noting that COVID has only exacerbated this reality. While I once had the opportunity to enter a studio, limited studio access means a home practice.

If you feel like you can't practice yoga at home because you don't have a 30-minute window of silence free from distractions, think again! There are a few things that have set met up for success when approaching yoga while momming.

1. Create a safe space

"We aren't aiming to have a perfect home, but we can be intentional about setting up our spaces." -Simone Davies

When my son started joining me during my yoga sessions, I found myself frequently stopping to remove something from his reach, or to remove something from his mouth, or to remove him from near death as he strived to jam his pudgy fingers into an electrical socket. Now I've created a baby-friendly space that allows him to play safely, which means I don't have to fret over him as I practice. I also recommend having a water bottle or snack nearby in case the need arises. By setting my son up for success, I'm more likely to complete a practice.

2. Embrace the mess

"Freedom is instantaneous the moment we accept the way things are." - Karen Maezen Miller

I prefer to practice in a space free from clutter. In my dream world, my toddler would sit with one toy or book, and the space around me would remain spotless. This is necessary to achieve a sense of peace, right? While it certainly helps to remove clutter, this just isn't the reality of my 16-month-old playing for 45-60 minutes while I practice. As he gets bored with one item, he moves onto the next, which might mean a few things get dumped on the floor.

While this used to drive me mad, it is now a new challenge for me. Yoga is ultimately about directing the mind through conscious breathing, so this is the perfect opportunity for me to practice this concept. Instead of latching onto the stressors (clutter), I focus on my breath and my movement.

3. Engage with your child

"Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity." - Simone Weil

Your practice will not be ruined if you pause to respond to your child. My son loves to hug me during practice. He has brushed my hair. He has pulled at my blanket I use as a prop. And yes, sometimes he cries. Instead of feeling disrupted, I try to recognize these as moments to connect with my child. In fact, these are some of the moments I am most connected with my child, because I'm most aware of my breath. If the thought of not seamlessly transitioning from one pose to the next while maintaining a perfect ujjayi breath makes you tense, I understand. My child loves to poop just when I'm warmed up enough to move deeper into a pose. Is he trying to rob me of asana bliss? I've started to leverage these moments as an opportunity to practice non-attachment. This is a true struggle for me, and so I've started using this quote by Seneca as a mantra: The greatest wealth is the poverty of desires.

In Judith Hanson Lasater's book Living Your Yoga, she addresses the concept of discipline. While she once thought a two-hour daily practice meant a disciplined life (quantity), she discovered that discipline is doing what is possible with consistency. You can still practice consistently with a baby at home, but the experience will look different. Frustrations will arise, but ultimately, joy can be found. Yoga really is about the breath, and practicing with a toddler drives home that lesson more than ever.

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