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5 Ways Yoga Makes Me a Better Mom

Since I first started practicing yoga about 20 years ago, there have been many starts and stops. I hated it with everything in me. When I agreed with a friend to start again about four years ago, I was a mom of a 4-year-old and more thoughtful about everything in my life. So when I again took to my yoga mat, I realized I'd hated it because yoga demands a level of discipline that can't be faked. Now, after a few years of consistent practice, I've begun to see how yoga has changed my life as a parent. Here are several ways yoga can benefit you, too.

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1. Opportunities to be present

The most difficult thing about yoga for me is being fully present in the class and on the mat. I'm often running through my to-do list outside the classroom in my mind, or replaying things that happened in the past. I fail nearly half the class. My ability (or inability) to be present in the class is reflective of my parenting. Am I on Facebook while my son is trying to get my attention? Am I thinking of story ideas while we are having dinner together? The answers are often yes, and just like in class, I try to pause and come back to what is actually going on in front of me.

2. Enjoyment of small victories

The victory is in the showing up and being there.

Yoga is not a race or a sport with quick wins and obvious achievements. It is a practice that happens one day at a time. The victory is in the showing up and being there. Parenting—deep, heart-centered parenting—is also a day-to-day opportunity to show up for ourselves and our children. It's not awesome, earth- shattering stuff. But when we see our child succeed at something for the first time, or we know that we've been a good influence on him or her in some way, the rewards could not be more moving.

3. More regular periods

I had just completed three years of breastfeeding when I started practicing yoga regularly. My hormones were crazy, but when practicing yoga during the time of my cycle, I found that the cycles' lengths and heaviness were less severe, which means I'm a happier mama.

4. Improved flexibility

Yoga builds flexibility in our bodies by working the joints and stretching the muscles, while parenting builds flexibility as we release our need to have things be a certain way. Parenting also creates flexibility as we make room for the needs of our children and bend over backward, forward and sideways to meet them.

5. Empowerment

Yoga helps me see that no one makes me feel anything I don't want to feel.

Yoga reminds me that I'm responsible for how I'm feeling and thinking. On days when I blame my kid for making me crazy or exhausting me with undesirable behavior, my yoga class insists that I choose how I respond to life and its circumstances. I create how I'm feeling, not someone else. This fact is key in my parenting; I've given over to the temptation to be angry because my son won't listen, or to be tired because this is so demanding. Yoga helps me see that no one makes me feel anything I don't want to feel. Yes it feels good to attribute our woes and distress to others, but to own our less-desirable thoughts and feelings is so much more empowering than to blame. We're not victims; we're in charge.

RELATED: Yoga Taught Me to Be Kind to Ourselves

I find yoga to be a gift to my parenting. My son is always a little happier when I drop him off at a playdate so I can catch a yoga class. I return soothed, present and ready to give him a run for his money.

Image via Twenty20/ivan_law

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