I have been teaching yoga for almost 5 years and have taught many styles to a variety of bodies and age groups. By far one of the most challenging classes I teach is Mommy & Me Yoga. There’s nothing like it to make me feel like a huge success and complete failure in the span of 45 minutes. Online, I often see activities to use, ways to engage the children, books to read, and pictures of happy children in perfect poses. What I don’t see is anyone spilling the beans about what really goes down in these classes. Let me be the bearer of the truth, Scary Mommy style. Here are 5 things NOT to expect in a typical Mommy & Me class:
- A Real Yoga Practice (or Workout).
Mommas, let me tell you straight, unless it’s a post-partum class geared to help you reconnect to your inner goddess alongside your non-mobile infant, Mommy & Me Yoga typically won’t be your solution to regaining your figure (or your sanity). These classes are child-centered and along the lines of “let’s keep the kids happy for 45 minutes of my absolutely busy, crazy day so I can feel like I have done something good for my child while spending quality time.” You’ll sweat, but it’ll be due to chasing your toddler around the room and trying to look like you’ve got some semblance of control over them. Give it up. Just be real. None of us know what we are doing, and kids have free will.
- Your Toddler/Preschooler to Be a Yoga Master
Children are natural yogis. You’ve probably seen your child doing downward facing dog at home. Maybe you’ve done some yoga on YouTube to cultivate these skills. Then you bring them to yoga because they “love it so much at home” and they stare at you like you’re asking them to assemble a car engine. They might even have a fit for good measure. Meanwhile, you’re jumping around like a crazy monkey, playing games, sweating through your clothes in attempt to engage your apathetic little angel. The positive side of bringing them to yoga (despite their lack of participation), is you are setting an example for them. Children will absorb what they see, and will do it at home. I’ve been with the same group for over a year, and it’s amazing what they are now able to do because we kept trying. There is no right way for a toddler or preschooler to do yoga at this age, so please don’t expect your child to have impeccable alignment. Just embrace their tiny successes and encourage them to be their natural, awesome selves. Please. And please don’t stop attending because your child doesn’t participate in everything, they are learning and socializing—I promise.
You will see nipples in Mommy & Me classes. We’ve all had babies who need to eat on their schedule despite our efforts make them conform to our schedule. We’ve all got loose skin, stretch marks, scars, and things we’d rather not bare in front of other moms (or dads and other guardians). Ultimately this space is a safe space for both parent and child. If your baby’s experience (and the rest of the class’s) would be improved by changing a diaper or nursing on the spot, be like Nike and just do it.
- To Use It as Babysitting
Moms, I know you’re tired and long for adult interaction. I am a single mom of two and my 2-year old daughter is my teaching assistant. I know tired and lonely. Please don’t go to Mommy & Me Yoga and chat up the other moms during class. Post-class coffee dates are a great way to feed your kids, further tire them out, and have needed conversation. Chances are your trained instructor tries to plan engaging activities and enjoys their work. Your participation is key to a successful class. It benefits children to see adults having fun, moving, and playing. They see us on our phones and being serious enough. Give them and yourselves the gift of your presence, and respect the teacher’s attempt to provide a positive experience.
- Quiet, Seriousness, or Relaxation
Children will sing when the class isn’t singing. They will cry over putting the pom-poms away. They will shake a shaker egg until you visualize yourself shattering said egg against the wall, all while smiling lovingly. (Don’t worry, we didn’t see your thoughts.) They won’t meditate. They won’t lay still during relaxation and will want to leave, turn the lights on, or be held. It’s all okay and perfect. Embrace your inner goofball and play, dance, sing, and laugh alongside them. Speaking from experience, it is a wonderful bonding opportunity and trust builder for your child.
To summarize, I have watched my daughter and other children thrive because of Mommy & Me Yoga. Our relationship is strong, she is strong and self-aware, and she has tools to self-regulate. I’ve seen children grow in amazing ways in some key areas: speech development, core strength, confidence, social skills, imagination, and independence to name a few. Come as you are, we will welcome you with open arms and a quiet understanding. Practice and all is coming. Don’t believe me? Check out my little girl singing one of our class favorites, Om Shanti. Peace Begins With Me.