When we think of the traits and characteristics we would like to instill and nurture in our children, we can probably come up with a rather long list: kindness, empathy, intelligence, grit, compassion, resilience, creativity - and on and on and on.
This leads to constantly evaluating both our parenting and our kid…Are they getting what they need from me? Am I doing a good job? Is she too outspoken, quiet, physical, reserved, bossy, etc?
Parenting is a hard job - on top of that, we are often hard on ourselves.
We can get so trapped in our heads - planning, evaluating, conducting moment-to-moment risk assessment (should I let him ride the escalator backwards, eat whole tomatoes, Superman jump off the top bunk?) - that we may never give ourselves the chance to just be fully present with our kids.
I have caught myself so many times “playing” with my son while mentally planning dinner, scheming about a work project, or, on the rough days, calculating the minutes until the earliest reasonable bedtime!
Yes, mothering can be exhausting, especially when we are trying to do ten other things at the same time. But when I let go of the need to do it all, as well as my socially ingrained urgency to be perfect (and raise perfect children), I realize I mainly want my kids to know how to be fully present in their lives - because the present is where joy happens.
And that joy only comes when I release control and accept the mess, the imperfection and my own vulnerability.
This Mother’s Day, I invite you (and myself) to spend time practicing the power of presence with our kids.
Clear the schedule, pause the mental planner, ditch perfection and try these 5 kid-friendly partner yoga poses to play, breathe and move together. Watch out - you might just be in for a whole lot of fun!
1. Breathing Buddies (Partner Breathing Exercise)
To begin partner yoga, we first need to tune into each other. Sit back-to-back, leaning into each other to create upright posture without too much effort. Notice how it feels to be supported by your partner.
Close your eyes and breathe deeply.
Can you feel the other person breathing?
You might even notice your breathing starts to synchronize.
Stay there for 5-10 breaths as your awareness tunes inward toward yourself and your partner.
Loving this and want more? Add a spine twist or, my fave, a partner forward fold and supported back bend. This variation feels good for both people - the forward fold provides a wonderful stretch of the back muscles and hips while the supported back bend opens the chest and shoulders.
Stay in each pose for 3-5 breaths. Stay present and aware and you will be able to tell when your partner is ready to switch without them saying anything.
2. Can You Canoe?
Boat pose can be a challenging core strengthener so definitely much more fun with a partner. There are tons of fun ways to team up for creative boat poses - and water-themed yoga poses are always a hit with children.
For the most traditional version, start seated facing each other with knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
Hold hands while lifting legs into boat pose.
Press soles of your feet together and extend the legs long.
Sing along to our canoe song or make up your own!
3. Baby Whale Pose
This mommy and me yoga pose works best for parents of younger children. Basically, the grownup practices their favorite backward bends like Cobra (hands under shoulders and lift torso up) and Locust (arms alongside the body, lifting arms, torso, legs and feet) and the child just gets to come along for a fun ride.
The extra weight really challenges the spine muscles so make sure you rest in between sets - even though it is likely your child will immediately beg you to “do it again!”
4. Dragon Breathing Together
Every time I attempt to do my own yoga practice anywhere in the vicinity of my four-year-old, it ultimately culminates on him climbing all over me. Rather than fight the inevitable, why not go with it and do this fun dragon pose together?
Start on hands and knees in tabletop and then have your child stack a table top above you with their knees on your hips. Test their balance by having them stand on their knees while you lift your arms as well. Take big dragon breaths together flapping wings up on the inhale and blowing our fire on the exhale!
Dragon breathing helps relieve tension and negative energy - and is a Yo Re Mi classroom favorite!
5. Balance Together (On and Off the Mat!)
Navigating close family relationships is always a balancing act. How do we make sure everyone’s needs are being met and honored? It takes a lot of compromise and an agreement to work together and support each other. We all need someone to hold us up sometimes.
Tree pose creates focus, concentration, grounding and stability while calming the mind and nervous system. Perfect for all ages, tree also builds strength, posture, flexibility and stimulates vestibular and proprioceptive systems.
Practice partner tree pose balancing side-by-side, holding hands or pressing palms together to lend a little support. Add some creativity and playfulness:
What would it feel like to sway in the wind, be a tall tree or a short one, a bonsai or a weeping willow?
Next family gathering, bring the whole crew together and become a forest of love!
There are tons of “official” partner yoga poses but some of the best ones are the ones we make up. Think about what yoga poses make you feel strong, powerful and relaxed in your body…take turns sharing your favorite poses and then work together to find creative ways to turn them into partner poses.
Mommy and me yoga can be shared with the whole family, and children of all ages.
Remember, the goal is not to be perfect but to be present: breathing together, moving together, and, hopefully laughing together. Because this moment - that is where the joy is.
Sending our best wishes for a Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms, grandmothers, aunties, caregivers and anyone mothering and nurturing our young people!
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