Yoga pants and mums have become a cliche.
Something mums wear to pick up kids from school and swing through the Starbucks drive-through.
In jokes and memes and occasionally maybe even in reality, yoga pants exist purely to collect baby spit up and as a napkin to collect potato chip grease. A recent Saturday Night Live skit poking fun at the utility of yoga pants for mums recently received a lot of traction on the internet among women with kids.
Well, yoga pants are much more for me. Yoga pants, or rather any comfortable exercise pants I can find on sale, are my uniform for what’s become my life-changing yoga practice. Yoga is not just pants to me. I credit yoga with helping me be fitter, stronger, more relaxed and aware, and better equipped to handle the rigors of parenthood.
Before I got into yoga, it had been years since I’d stuck to any type of regular exercise regimen. As a kid, I took various dance classes including ballet, tap, jazz and Polynesian. I played a season or two of T-ball and hated every second. Youth soccer was also in the rotation.
Theatre was my sole high school “sport”, but in college I took dance classes once again and visited the gym occasionally. Ever since college, I’ve also gone on walks regularly.
Even after I got married I stuck to my weekly Polynesian dance class, but dropped it with my first pregnancy because of morning sickness. Kids kept me busy as kids do, and I didn’t go back to another dance or exercise class.
Instead, I focused on my kids’ activities.T-ball for my son, and then martial arts and flag football. Dance for my toddler girl. Swim lessons for both kids.
I missed my Polynesian dance class, but there was no way I could find the team for an evening weekday activity of my own on top of mine and my husband’s full-time work schedules and the kids’ school and activities.
About a year ago, an acquaintance of mine mentioned how much she enjoyed yoga, and it sounded like an “easy” way to get some exercise. Ha! Easy is not quite the word. But I did a quick internet search for nearby yoga studios, and found one with some weekend classes. I took the plunge and purchased a pass for a handful of classes.
Leaving my husband and kids first thing on a Saturday morning proved to be somewhat a feat in itself, with little mouths needing to be fed and sibling squabbles to settle. Yoga class itself was even more brutal. I was so out of shape, and my body was not at all conditioned to deal with the bending and stretching integral to yoga. Downward dog? Yeah, not my favourite to be upside down like that.
But I was intrigued by the calm, accepting atmosphere of the yoga studio. The deliberate breathing practices filled me with a cloud of relaxation that almost felt like a mild high or a good buzz from a couple glasses of wine. I returned the next weekend, and the one after that.
The more I did yoga, the easier the poses were for me.
In recent years, I’ve hated to sit cross-legged on the ground to play with my kids because I’ve just not been flexible. But with continued yoga, I grew noticeably more flexible. Sitting on the floor was no longer a big deal.
When I’d feel anxious lying in bed at night, I’d fall asleep with the help of relaxing breathing techniques I learned in yoga class.
One of my favourite effects of yoga was how my body changed. I was leaner, firmer all over, with a stronger core. I only lost a few pounds, but I could see muscle definition for the first time ever. I felt like I was standing a little taller and straighter just walking around and going about my day. Aware of my body, and appreciative of its power and capability.
Encouraged by my progress, I started doing yoga at home throughout the week with the guidance of yoga YouTube videos. I’ve continued a class or two on the weekends, as well.
I finally understood why people exercise regularly, and how they foster the motivation to keep it up.
When I don’t do yoga for a few days, I feel stiff and achy. I crave the release and centering yoga brings me.
The other day, I carried by almost 7 year-old-son on my back for about a quarter of a mile on a super hot day, I could never have done that before yoga. In addition, my kids have fun doing yoga with me in the backyard. Sometimes they follow along to special kid yoga videos.
Taking the time out for my health and well-being hasn’t always been easy, but it’s certainly worth it.
I might wipe some chip grease on my yoga pants from time to time, but they serve a more important purpose, too.
I’ve found my balance thanks to yoga.