Dr Dani Ceccarelli of Magnetic Island Yoga in Queensland shares how she maintained her yoga practice while her children were small, saying a flexible approach can help.
Yoga is a practice that aims to promote certain physical qualities (flexibility, strength, endurance), but its essential goal is to bring about a state of inner calm and resilience, and, eventually, self-realisation.
None of these benefits appear by themselves, however, and it takes putting aside time and space for our practice – whatever that may be: the strong physical discipline of Ashtanga yoga, or perhaps a more gentle asana practice or sitting in meditation. How do we find this time when we have a family, especially with young children?
People have found all kinds of ways to maintain a spiritual practice when they have kids, and they do so in all kinds of ways. A common theme, however, is that it helps to release your expectations of what the format of your practice should look like. It helps to consider that practice doesn’t have to be a certain length, or a certain sequence, for it to work and be worthwhile – as it says in the Bhagavad Gita:
“No effort, no matter how small, is ever wasted.”
When my children were small, I used to practice when they were asleep, and then slowly when they were awake. The trick seemed to be to give them a sense that I was busy, but that I still had some of my attention on them, would get off my mat when they needed me, and was therefore not unavailable. Over time they learned to leave me alone in what seemed to be a fairly smooth transition.
Having said that, it’s worth infusing our parenting with some of the discipline we dedicate to our practice. Raising children to respect others, behave with grace, contribute to their surroundings and are comfortable with boundaries, takes hard work, attention to behavioural patterns and endless repetition – the same hard work, focus and persistence that it takes to travel a spiritual path. Much of it is messy and experimental. But if we’re willing to stay curious, open and consistent, parenting and yoga practice and complement each other beautifully.
About Dr Dani Ceccarelli:
With a deep knowledge of Ashtanga Yoga, Dani is a direct student of Ashtanga Yoga Guru Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, and more recently his grandson Sharath Jois, and has travelled regularly to Mysore, India, since 2001. Dani has their official authorisation as a Level II Ashtanga teacher.
Dani has practiced yoga since 1996 and taught since 2000. “I discovered yoga after the birth of my first son in 1996. I practiced Hatha and Iyengar Yoga until 1998, when I went to my first Ashtanga Yoga workshop. It was ‘love at first sweat’, and since then I has been committed to daily practice.
“Even though it is a dynamic practice, it can be made accessible to many levels of physical ability. To learn how to adapt the practice to students’ needs, I have extended my studies to include Iyengar, Yoga-Synergy, Vinyasa and Hatha Yoga, and hold certification from the International Yoga Teachers Association and Australian Ashtangi Matthew Sweeney.
“I feel the strong physical practice of Ashtanga Yoga has the potential to open the heart and calm the mind, enhancing self-awareness and overall wellbeing.
“Yoga pervades all aspects of my life, from parenting my three teenage boys to working as a marine biologist and making time for music and art.”