Dear Mothers of young children...

Dear Mothers (Parents, Grandparents and Other Guardians Included),

I know you are tired in your seemingly endless days of caring for young children. The job never ends, it is a circular loop of feeding, laundry and lego-cleanup. I know you love it underneath the daily grind of little frustrations, like cleaning snack crumbs out of carseats. Well, consider this little gift in your weekly routine - family yoga.

Take a deep breath and imagine for a moment the tail end of class. Soft mantra music fills the air. You’re snuggled on your mat under a warm blanket, with a bolster under your knees letting your back melt down. Your body is more relaxed than it has been since you can remember. Your little one snuggles close to you. They are also calm and still now. They got all their wiggles out in a fun and stimulating class. Your yoga instructor coaches you both to take a long, deep breath. Together, hands on your bellies, you both inhale, filling your body with peace… I’ll come back to this moment of relaxation in a second.

This class really does exist! In all the nooks and crannies where we find parent and child activities, from online calendars, parent activity periodicals, and poster boards at kids’ consignment shops, sometimes it’s hard to find worthwhile activities that fit into your life. Family yoga is a lovely, constructive activity to do together weekly. It’s active, and we parents know it’s super important to give children physical outlets in the PNW. In our often rainy climate, indoor activities rock!

Yoga benefits a child’s body knowledge. Even with simplified movement and playful instruction your child is laying down a foundation for a lifetime of athletic self-knowledge and performance. Whether your child grows to become an athlete, a poet or a judge, this body knowledge is important for good health for the duration of our lifetimes. We all need to know how to move and care for our bodies. And starting yoga young lays that groundwork. Like reading together, this type of gentle exercise together encourages nurturing, positive association with yoga, stretching and moving.

Perhaps even more beneficial is that yoga teaches breathing. As a mother, and as a yoga-lover myself, I can not think of a better gift to give a child. Knowledge of how to breathe helps concentration, athletic performance, speaking clearly, being able to soothe oneself when stressed, and nurtures emotional self-awareness. Studies of children being taught mindful breathing and yoga in schools showed positive benefit in the classroom environment with improved behavior and lowered detentions.

Also there’s the physical benefit to you both. Every session you both stretch and move your bodies together. Every session you melt tension away from your shoulders. You get your hearts pumping and hopefully you laugh together too. Children get their wiggles out in a safe, dry, structured environment and that makes their parents’ lives better!

Family Yoga is a positive, constructive time to play with your little one. The structure takes the planning off your hands. The young child has a pleasant introduction to classroom time and social groups. As a parent it feels a need to meet and spend time with like-minded, kind and committed other parents. It is a lovely, silly, deep and nurturing way to spend time together. I personally attribute a lot of my children’s ability to communicate their emotional needs and their love of doing physical activity as a family to early yoga in their lives.

Now, back to the end of class, the best part, the relaxation. You take a deep breath, so does your child beside you. Your eyes meet. In that one movement, neither of you are distracted by anything, you are simply together in this lovely, relaxed space. The whole group exhales a gushing breath out as a class. You may hear some relaxed sighs and some children’s giggles. And that completes your yoga class. Gently you all get up to participate in the ritual of putting away bolsters and mats. As you leave you’re calm, relaxed and connected with your little one. I imagine you, like me, want this sweet gift of time together every single week.

-Marcela Joy