For me, the hardest part about starting my yoga practice and keeping it going hasn’t been quieting my mind in meditation, or following creative sequences—or trying to memorize the Sanskrit names of poses and understand the anatomical benefits of different practices. No, for me the greatest hurdle to being a yogi and later becoming a yoga teacher has been, and continues to be, trying to balance that calling with being the parent of young children.
If you have kids you already know that it’s not so easy to simply pick up your mat and go teach or take a class. The majority of yoga classes are offered in the evenings, when the workday is over for most people. But that schedule doesn’t always mesh well with the end-of-day needs of kids, from their array of extracurricular activities to their bedtime rituals. And if you’re a single parent, the logistics of scheduling can surpass the definition of challenging.
But with careful and creative planning, open and honest dialogue with studio owners, support networks—and, if they’re old enough, the kiddos themselves—it can all be managed.
Here are five tips and tricks that made all the difference for me in fitting teaching and/or practicing yoga into a very busy life.
1. Teach or Attend Daytime Classes
If you’re a busy working parent and nighttime classes aren’t an option, midday classes might be a good fit—especially if you can find or request a 30- or 45-minute class that is doable during your lunch break. If your kids are school age and you’re free during the day, morning, lunchtime, or early-afternoon classes could work for you. Or, if your kids are younger, you can drop them at childcare to create more yoga options for yourself.
If the studio where you practice or teach doesn’t offer daytime classes because of low attendance, try bolstering interest by sharing the opportunity with your network of parents who have similar schedules. If you’re a teacher, you can also focus on advertising daytime classes to people who may have more flexible schedules: retirees, self-employed folks, and those with careers that allow for more flex time (real estate agents and artists, for example).
2. Do a Doubleheader
It can be challenging to arrange for childcare, so when you do achieve that miracle, make it work for you. As a yoga instructor, doing a doubleheader (i.e., teaching back-to-back classes) is a great way to get back into the teaching groove and put a few extra dollars in your bank account. This is especially true when you have to pay for childcare.
It’s often not worth paying for childcare when you have to be at the studio before you teach, teach a one-hour class, and stay after class to talk to students. You might be paying a sitter for three hours while you get paid for only one. Teaching two classes maximizes your efficiency, travel time, and childcare investment.
Similarly, if you want to practice yoga but don’t have many kid-free hours, try taking two classes back to back, especially if one is a gentle, stretch-based, or restorative yoga class. You don’t want to overdo it, of course, but as a parent it’s also important for some self-care time.
3. Avail Yourself of Built-in Daycare and Kids’ Yoga Classes
Teaching or practicing at a studio or gym with childcare will certainly make the juggling act easier. Or perhaps you could teach or attend a parent-and-baby or parent-and-kid class and get your own offspring involved. Similarly, some studios run a separate kids’ yoga class at the same time as an adult class so that teachers and participants alike can have their children in a program while they themselves get in a practice.
If these services or classes don’t yet exist where you teach or practice, talk to management. As a teacher, you could offer to teach one of these classes or try to amass enough interested attendees so that it would be worthwhile for the gym or studio to offer childcare or a kids’ class. As a client, you can make your interests and preferences known—in order to remain competitive, studios and gyms need to be responsive to varying needs, after all.
4. Get Creative With Unexpected Events
If your child has a contagious disease and can’t attend school, and you can’t find childcare, they also shouldn’t be in the studio. As a teacher, that can mean calling in favors to get a class covered. However, if kiddos can’t go to school or daycare because of cancellations or a non-contagious condition, such as a headache, perhaps you can bring them to the studio. Maybe there is a quiet corner outside the practice room where they could sit and draw, watch movies with headphones, or read, if a trusted staff member is handy to supervise.
I still regard this as an emergency measure, not as a permanent arrangement, and only if it’s okay with the studio owners and staff. But sometimes it is preferable not to have to cancel a class of 30 attendees if a creative (and non-contagious!) solution is at hand.
5. Build Your Workshop Business
Workshops can be a wonderful addition to your offerings as a yoga teacher. And because you’re designing the workshop, you can control your schedule, perhaps offering it when a partner or family member is available to help with childcare. Or, if you do need to pay for childcare, it will only be for a few hours (a typical duration for a workshop), and you’ll make more money than you would by teaching a regular yoga class! Some popular workshop ideas that students may be willing to pay a bit more for include restorative yoga with essential oils, gentle yoga with self-massage, a therapy ball event, yoga nidra, or an arm balance intensive.
Learn not to glut the marketplace by offering too many workshops too often, and listen to the needs and desires of students when planning your lineup. Also, as a yoga student, workshops can be a great way to get in some solid, dedicated yoga practice and then return to your family refreshed and revitalized.
It’s not always easy, but it’s not impossible to balance teaching or practicing yoga with parenting. With advances in technology, teaching online has become another way to reach more people, and students have more online options than ever. But if an away-from-home yoga experience is what you’re after, whether as a teacher or a student, there are ways to make it happen. Just be prepared for unpredictable situations and be ready with plan B, C, D, and more. Because when it works, yoga makes parenting better, and being a parent can likewise add a nuance to your yoga practice. Plan your work, and work your plan, expect the unexpected—and breathe. That’s advice for yoga, parenting, and life in general. I hope it works for you.