To the first-time dad, I welcome you. I am you.
As a first-time dad, know this, assistance is available to you as you venture into the new arena of fatherhood. Yoga provides the perfect tools to assist you as you begin your inaugural journey of fatherhood. This new dynamic will undoubtedly ask more of you as a person. You are now responsible for your well-being and the well-being of a baby. Your physical, mental and emotional faculties will be stretched as you provide for your child in so many ways. Assistance through yoga, will help to see that you are supported in these crucial early stages of fatherhood.
The most significant assistance a first-time dad will receive will be self-served.
The best gift you can give your little one is a lifetime of the healthiest and most present you. Your physical, emotional, and mental well-being are directly related to the quality of presence that you will exude throughout your child's life. With the tools of yoga, you will be equipped to play a major role in your health and your level of presence towards your child.
May these 3 yoga practices assist you in building and maintaining your optimal health, to best serve you, your baby, and if applicable your partner, wife, or co-parent.
1. Restorative Yoga
This branch of yoga is about relieving stress in the body. As a first-time dad, it is highly likely that you will experience physical stress as a direct result of caring for your child. The delicacy needed to carry a baby, coupled with potentially sleepless nights during the infancy stage is a recipe for physical stress. Though sleep may be hard to come by and carrying your baby will prove unavoidable, the assistance of restorative yoga poses will help you to release stress in your body and feel physically rejuvenated. Restorative yoga postures are gentle and are done with props such as bolsters and blocks. There are numerous restorative yoga postures so, I have chosen to share the two poses which assisted me in my earliest days of fatherhood.
Explore the two restorative yoga poses below to help ease and prevent physical stress associated with being a first-time dad. These 2 postures cater to the parasympathetic nervous system, the part of the nervous system responsible for healing, recovery, and relieving stress.
A. Supported Child's Pose
Supported Child's Pose relieves stress in the lower back, shoulders, hips, knees, and ankles. With so many body parts experiencing relief at the same time, the nervous system settles down and the body is in a more efficient state for recovery. Supported child's pose delivers a sense of peace, warmth, and security, irreplaceable components to relieve stress and restore the body.
Get a bolster (pictured.) If you do not have a bolster, use a pillow or two, a few blankets folded will make due.
Find a relatively quiet space where you feel safe, preferably in a tidy room with soft lighting and a clean atmosphere. A clean, open space is a key component to relieve stress, particularly with supported child's pose, a highly vulnerable position.
Place your bolster or your makeshift bolster in the middle of a yoga mat, on a blanket, or on a carpet, vertically.
Position your knees on either side of the bolster and bring your big toes to touch.
Proceed to take your hips towards your heels as you rest your chest and stomach on to the bolster.
Turn your head to one side and find a comfortable position to rest your arms.
5-10 minutes in a supported child’s pose will relieve stress from the most stressful day; however, stay as long as you feel.
B. Supported Bridge Pose
Supported Bridge Pose relieves stress in the entire spine, the shoulders, chest, hips, and legs.
You may need one or two yoga blocks as pictured; however, one 800 page book or a bolster serves as reliable substitutes.
Find a relatively quiet space where you feel safe, preferably in a tidy room with soft lighting and a clean atmosphere.
Keep your chosen prop nearby and lay with your back down on a mat, blanket, or carpet. Being comfortable is a non-negotiable aspect when the purpose is to relieve stress.
Bend your knees and allow your feet to rest firmly on the ground. Take a pause here for a minute or two.
When you are ready, press your feet down and lift your hips up to place a block or two under your sacrum (around where your lower back and buttocks meet.)
Allow the weight of your hips to rest comfortably on the blocks.
Similar to a supported child’s pose, 5-10 minutes of supported bridge pose will relieve stress and refresh your essential “dad body.”
2. Pranayama: complete Breath
Pranayama are yogic breathing exercises that increase our prana or life force and distribute it throughout the body. Proper breathing habits will be of great assistance to a first-time dad experiencing the ever-changing dynamics of fatherhood. With proper breathing comes the proper function of the physical and mental systems. As mentioned earlier in the introduction of this post, your emotional and mental well-being is directly related to the quality of presence that you wish to create as a first-time father.
Pranayama starts with breathing in a complete manner; this requires breathing in and out through the nose and using the full capacity of the lungs. This assures that maximum oxygen is received and maximum carbon dioxide is expelled. Furthermore, by breathing in and out through the nose, the body is able to better keep out pathogens.
To practice the Complete Breathe…
Sit or stand in a comfortable and upright manner
Focus on breathing solely in and out through your nose for a few breaths.
On an inhale, start by filling up the lowest part of your lungs, followed by the middle part of the lungs expanding your ribs and finally the top part of your lungs expanding the chest.
Hold the breath for 2 seconds.
As you exhale, maintain your posture and release the breath slowly.
The complete breath requires practice and may feel strenuous to start. As with the start to most practices, with time, this natural way of breathing becomes natural again.
Detachment from a yoga perspective is of the highest value and deemed key to our development as human beings. By practicing detachment we hold on to hope, but learn to let go of any attachment to the desired outcome. Being a first-time dad, it is natural that you will want the best situations and outcomes for your child, as you should. Though life is full of unknowns and fatherhood will prove this true. By attaching to desired outcomes we succumb to the fear of uncertainty. By practicing detachment we learn to embrace uncertainty and see it as a breeding ground of possibilities.
To practice detachment…
Notice and accept that the dynamics of our existence and certainly of fatherhood, dictate a multitude of possible outcomes. Some of these outcomes are to our pleasure and some are to our displeasure. Detachment requires that you let go of attachment to the outcomes that favor you and the ones that seemingly do not. This keeps our energy even and equipped to handle what is in the present.
Practice letting go of perfection as you practice the Complete Breath. Be gentle with yourself and focus on the process rather than the end goal of the breathing exercise. You already know what outcome you desire from this pranayama, no need to keep the focus there anymore, let it go. Devote to the practice, relinquish the outcome.
These three yoga practices, Restorative Yoga, Pranayama, and Detachment, each a force of its own, will provide you as a first-time dad with the tools needed for the journey ahead. Peace be with you, and your little one too.