As a teenager I played basketball. In my twenties I was a runner. But since becoming a mum I reckon I’d have more chance sinking a three pointer in the middle of a twenty-kilometer sprint than sticking to a regular fitness routine. For starters, I have no time and no energy, and I’m pretty sure “no co-ordination” would be an understatement. That said, I recently stumbled on another form of exercise that seems the perfect antidote to my deflated state: yoga.
With the emphasis on stretching and steady breathing, I find yoga emotionally soothing, physically energising, and hell, facially beautifying in a way that cardio exercise is not. Elke Avis, a thirty-one-year-old mum of one and founder of Free Girls Yoga, agrees.
Yoga is so great for mums because it induces a sense of calm that perfectly counterbalances the hectic reality of looking after kids, the physical stress of managing a household and overstimulation of being attached to our phones all day.
Best of all for mums with no time (AKA all of us), Elke says that to get benefits you only need to devote five to ten minutes to yoga a day.
Doing a little bit each day and creating a routine will help to make a difference to your health and outlook on life.
I’ve asked Elke to introduce three essential poses with specific benefits for mums—and hell, if you’ve got daughters, why not rope them in, too? This is a great 10-minute yoga routine that you can squeeze in any time of day.
You will notice that these few poses done in the morning and evening will make a difference to how you feel going into your day or into sleep at night. Don’t feel you have push too hard or sweat it out to get the good vibes flowing!
Before you start:
- Make sure you practice on an empty stomach (that includes not drinking water before and during practice). Allow about at least twenty minutes after drinking and three hours after a meal for digestion before you do your yoga routine.
- Find a clean, open space that is not too exposed to the elements.
- If you have any injuries or ailments, please discontinue practice if you feel any pain or discomfort.
- Allow the breath to be deep and smooth throughout the practice. Do not hold the breath.
- Do not over-exert yourself. If you notice your body start to shake or find it hard to breathe deeply and smoothly in a pose, then it is a sign you are tired. Come straight out of the pose. Over-exerting in yoga poses actually stresses the nervous system and is not beneficial.
- Please follow the sequence order given.
Note: Although most of these poses can be performed by pregnant women. this is not a sequence designed for pregnancy. All pregnant women should seek guidance from a prenatal yoga teacher as to what to practice at each stage of their pregnancy.
Essential Yoga for Mums & Daughters #1: Cat Stretch Pose
Directions: Come onto all fours. Have the arms shoulder width apart. Spread the fingers, make sure the middle finger is pointing forward, and push the whole palm into the floor. Knees are hip distance apart with the thighs perpendicular to the floor. Bring the spine into neutral position (straight). This is the starting position. On the inhale arch the spine, opening the sit bones up and looking up with the head.
As you begin to exhale, start rounding the spine, pushing the back of the chest up to the ceiling, tucking the bottom, tucking the head in, and bringing the chin toward the chest. Continue to inhale, arching the spine, and exhale, rounding the spine.
Make the breathing and the movement smooth, moving the body and the breath together.
Duration: Perform as many rounds as you like, minimum five rounds.
Benefits: Gently soothes the reproductive system, giving relief from menstrual cramps and leucorrhoea. And for mums living on less than ideal sleep, the lower back loosening and general backache relief is a winner.
Essential Yoga for Mums & Daughters #2: Mountain Pose or “Downward Dog”
Directions: From all fours tuck the toes under so you are on the balls of the feet. Inhale here, then exhale and straighten the legs and arms, coming into mountain pose. Try to bring the heels toward the floor. Keep the legs as straight as you can (without locking the knees back). Feel the spine long and straight. The neck is straight, head/gaze looking back to the feet. Rotate the sit bones open toward the ceiling, and lengthen through the lower back. Breathe in the final position. Exhale to come out back onto all fours.
Duration: Take three to five breaths; do not strain or get shaky. Build up to more breaths and longer holds over time.
Benefits: For anyone who picks up kids all day long the strengthening effect of this pose on muscles in the arms, legs, and back is a godsend. Plus, by stimulating circulation in the upper spine between the shoulder blades, you’ll find stress less likely to knot up your neck and shoulders.
Essential Yoga for Mums & Daughters #3: Easy Bow Pose
Directions: Lie on your belly with your legs outstretched and feet together. Arms are back beside the body to start. Bring the forehead to touch the floor. Bend the knees, bringing the heels close to the buttocks. Grab on around the outside of the ankles. This is the starting position of the pose. Inhale and, pushing the legs into the hands, start to press the thighs and upper body away from the floor. Hold in the raised position and breathe here. Exhale to come out by letting the thighs, chest, and head come back to the floor. Then release the hands from the ankles, straighten the legs out, and turn your head to the side and rest.
Make sure to keep squeezing the inner legs toward each other in the final position as the legs tend toward wanting to splay outward.
Do not strain and force the legs too high. Keep a feeling of lengthening the spine even as you raise up into the back bend, not crunching up the lower back.
If you have any back soreness or pain, then discontinue the movement. This is a preliminary back bend pose but can still put pressure on the lower back if not done with care, so take caution and go gently.
Duration: Hold the pose for three to five breaths, working up the number of breaths over time. You may notice the body slightly rise and fall in this position as you breathe.
Benefits: Got belly bloat? You’ll notice improved functioning of your digestive, excretory, and reproductive organs. On a superficial level (because we all are, just a little) this one also boosts posture and tightens legs, thighs, and butt. Win.
More yoga for mums: