How Much Yoga Is Enough?

Kate Hanley by Kate Hanley | June 10th, 2013 | 4 Comments
topic: Fitness, Personal Growth, Yoga

I’ve been practicing yoga for close to two decades. The awareness and grounding it offers has steadied me through cross-country moves, crazy deadlines, tragic breakups, getting married and becoming a mother. Yet when I had the second of my two kids in just over two years, I gave up all forms of mind-body practice cold turkey. I just couldn’t take on anything that wasn’t directly related to keeping those kids alive and cared for.

I thought I was making life easier for myself when I decided to give myself an out from spending time on the yoga mat or the meditation cushion. Man, was I wrong!

Moving from yogi to mommy

Let me be clear — my younger child was a delightful baby and is now the mellowest 3-year-old boy I’ve ever come across. But his relative easiness did nothing to relieve the cocktail of hormones and exhaustion that accompanied his arrival. He’d cry and I’d start sweating blood.

I’d gone through the whole spectrum of yogini-hood before this point — I started with one class a week at the gym, and gradually amped that up to two before ditching the gym altogether and patronizing a yoga studio where I did 2-3 classes a week and started dabbling in a home practice now and again. A few years later, I embarked on a year-long teacher training, where I practiced nearly every day, either in the studio or at home. Afterward, I settled back in to 2-3 classes a week with some home practice thrown in. After my first child was born, I was happy to get to one weekly class and did some form of practice at home most other days.

Even though I knew there was no one ‘right’ way to maintain a yoga practice, I succumbed to all-or-nothing thinking in those early days of being a mom of two. Like, when you eat a handful of chips and then think, “Oh, screw it,” and then continue to eat the whole bag. Or, in this yoga example, if I couldn’t practice two or three or four or five times a week, I decided there was no point in practicing at all.

But here’s what I’ve come to believe with all of my being: The deep breath you take before you say something crabby to your husband or snap at your kids is a more powerful mind-body practice than the most vigorous 90-minute yoga class.

Making the most of your mini yoga practice

I gradually got back into my practice by meditating while I nursed the baby to sleep. It was 10 blissful minutes of quiet, and it not only helped me purge some stress, it helped me start actually looking forward to bedtime (which had previously been my least favorite part of the day with its dinner-bed-jammies-and-make-it-quick relentlessness).

Then I started doing an odd Child’s Pose or Down Dog here or there. Which helped me remember to take that deep breath before I got snippy with my husband.

The process helped me see how even mini-mini practices add up to a whole host of benefits. And once you start doing them, the enjoyable effects inspire you to do more and more of them.

So if you’ve been thinking, “I’d love to do yoga or meditate, but I just don’t have the time,” re-think. If you’d like more practical information on how to weave practice in to your vida loca, visit me at msmindbody.com. And keep breathing!

Comments

  1. YES! This is a great article that reminds me that no matter how much my life has changed, I can always incorporate yoga into it….even if it is 1 breath at a time. :-)

    Ryanne | June 11th, 2013 | Comment Permalink
  2. After five consecutive years on the mat, I just stepped off for the past five months. Everything in my life collided at once. My very sick parent moved in with our family and needs extensive care. Our toddler stopped sleeping alone and migrates to our bed sometime between midnight and 5 am every night. I got injured and had to go to Physical Therapy. And the yoga at the gym (which was supplementing my yoga at the studio) tranisitioned from power yoga to octagenarian stretching. All of that combined made me lose my drive to be on my mat.

    Now after five months I realize i have lost a part of myself not being on my mat. Regardless how crazy life is around me, I need to keep myself strong. Thank you for a well timed article.

    Dana Horesh | June 11th, 2013 | Comment Permalink
  3. While I think that a beginner should start like you did – with one class per week – I think that there is really no limit on how many times one should practice Yoga. For some it’s enough to do it just that one time a week and they are fine with that. For me, I tend to do it even twice a day sometimes (not always, but it does happen quite regularly). I simply enjoy it and it helps me remain calm and quiet in this otherwise busy world. I think everyone should decide for themselves how often they want to do it.

    Yoga Girl | June 19th, 2013 | Comment Permalink
  4. Ryanne, yes! And Dana, man, I completely experienced that life collision, and that’s exactly when you need the steadying effects of a mind-body practice the most. Do your best, but if that means a downdog before you get dressed for a while, that’s fabulous. And Yoga Girl, yes, exactly, everyone should decide for themselves how often the want to do it. My point wasn’t to say not to do too much. Rather, it was that if you’re experiencing a time when it feels like you can’t even get to class once a week, or ever, you can still be on the path in a few minutes at home as often as you can muster. It still counts. Blessings to everyone on their journey!

    Kate Hanley | June 19th, 2013 | Comment Permalink

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