When you have kids, especially if you have more than one, it can seem impossible to find time for yourself. But it’s true what they say about taking care of yourself first. If you don’t take care of you, you won’t have anything to give to anyone else.
Still, with limited time, you have to choose your me-time activities carefully. You want to choose something that makes you feel good, strengthens your body or enhances your overall health. Yoga does all of the above. It also has many proven benefits that we’ll explore here.
What you should know before you step on the yoga mat
Before we explore its many benefits for busy moms, there are a few basics you should know. Yoga has been around since the 70s, and it can vary from gentle to strenuous depending on the type you choose and your skill level.
Hatha yoga is the most common form of yoga in the United States, and it’s the form that most studies are based upon. So, when you hear about proven benefits of yoga, it’s likely specific to Hatha yoga (benefits may or may not apply to any type of yoga).
Yoga consists of three elements: physical poses called asanas, controlled breathing during asanas and a short meditation or relaxation period.
Most forms of yoga are generally considered safe, but you should avoid strenuous forms if it’s your first time and/or if you have mobility issues.
Yoga reduces anxiety
Have you ever known someone who does yoga regularly? Yogis (that's what they're called) typically have a calm nature and aren't easily rattled. There's a reason for this. Yoga, and the meditation that goes along with it, has been proven to alleviate the symptoms of anxiety.
And nothing can raise your anxiety level faster than a three-year-old’s tantrum on a day you’re working from home. During yoga, people practice mindfulness meditation along with their asanas. Studies have shown that yoga andmeditation can have a significant impact on stress levels.
A large-scale literature review done at Johns Hopkins University concluded that mindfulness meditation, such as what's done in yoga classes, will reduce the symptoms of anxiety to some degree. Researchers evaluated 47 studies on the effects of mindfulness and found conclusive evidence that mindfulness meditation has a positive effect on the symptoms of anxiety.
Yoga boosts the immune system
We give this advice all the time: Take care of yourself. Eat right, exercise and make sure you’re getting enough sleep.
But as busy moms ourselves, we don’t always take our own advice. And when we aren’t taking care of ourselves, we leave the door open for all sorts of pathogens to enter and get us sick.
At least one study tells us that yoga can almost immediately impact the immune system, specifically by impacting gene expression.
In a small Norwegian study published in PLOS ONE, researchers found that four-hour yoga sessions actually changed the expression of 111 genes, of which immune cells were included.
If your body is strong enough to fight off colds, flu, and other illnesses, you'll be better equipped to take care of the kids when they get sick.
Fuels a sense of community
Experiencing any sense of privacy with kids around is difficult. But while you're struggling to get some alone time, you've never felt lonelier. While you're busy shuffling kids from practices to recitals, it's easy to lose your sense of self.
Attending a regular yoga class is one way to reclaim your life. If you can step away for an hour each day to practice yoga, you’ll give yourself some time to refuel. And if you can attend class away from home at a yoga studio, you can fit in some social interaction with a group of people with whom you are sharing an experience.
As a busy mom, it's important to maintain an identity that's separate from family and work. It's too easy to get lost in all the things you have to do and forget who you actually are. Spend a little time on yourself, and you'll reconnect with a more passionate life. And your family will reap the benefits of having a happy and fulfilled mom.