Twin Mom Carrie finds out how to de-stress from mother of twins
and YoKid Co-Founder Ellie Gompert Burke.
Ellie! Thank you so very much for taking the time to chat with The Twin Source on finding a balanced life as a mother of twins!
Thank you for reaching out to me! I am honored that you asked me to share my story.
Let's start by talking about you! Tell us about yourself, your twins, and why you co-founded YoKid.
Like all parents, I wear many hats. First and foremost, I am mom to Kofi and Anoushea, my 2-and-a-half-year-old twins and the loves of my life. I am also a yoga teacher. I have been practicing yoga for about 11 years and teaching for about eight.
Early in my practice, I discovered the incredibly powerful impact that yoga had on my overall health and well-being (mental, emotional, and physical). With the desire to extend these benefits to the many underserved and at-risk kids I worked with in schools and group homes, I co-founded YoKid, a nonprofit whose mission is to bring yoga to all children in order to help them foster self-awareness and fulfill their full potential academically, socially, physically, and emotionally.
It's a proven fact that yoga is a stress reliever. Can you speak to how your yoga practice has helped you as a new mother of twins?
That's a great question! I honestly laugh all the time about how I: 1) didn't really know the meaning of stress until I became a mom to twins and 2) didn't know just how powerful and important my yoga and meditation practice would be in navigating the intense and, at times, overwhelming stress of parenting twins.
As many people know, yoga is really good for the body—it increases flexibility and strength, improves circulation, and boosts immunity. But the mental and emotional benefits of a regular yoga practice are the aspects that I found to be really critical as a new mother of twins.
The simple act of taking time for myself to get on my mat, pay attention to the physical sensations of my body, pay attention to my breath, and clear my head helped me to relax, release stress, and reconnect with myself during times of chaos. It was a time to "get myself back." Even if it was just for 5 or 10 minutes, whenever I found the time!
How can yoga help children of all ages?
Kids yoga improves self-esteem and self-awareness, making it more likely that kids will create healthy, secure, and honest relationships and less likely that they will develop eating disorders, depression, or other mental health conditions. Yoga has been proven to reduce stress, improve concentration and relaxation, and promote healthy lifestyles. Yoga also improves skill development, muscular strength, muscular endurance, and flexibility. And, perhaps above and beyond all of that, yoga teaches kids that they have their own inner strength and inner core of peace that is always present—allowing them to weather the ups and downs of life with more ease and equanimity and less hardship and pain.
Here's what kids and teens in the YoKid program have had to say about yoga:
• 70% said it helped them with school work.
• 82% said it helped them learn how to keep still.
• 61% said it helped them with managing their anger.
• 92% said it helped them with concentration.
• 85% said it helped them with patience.
• 88% said it helped them feel healthy.
• 77% said it helped them to make friends.
• 88% said it helped them to feel calm.
When it comes to managing stress as a twin mom, what helps you to stay centered despite the day-to-day chaos of it all?
For me, a (somewhat) regular yoga practice, as well as a daily meditation practice, helps a ton! Sometimes I only practice for 10 to 15 minutes; other times I practice for an hour and a half. It's just a time to reconnect with myself at my center and to be present in the moment, allowing life (and its chaos) to simply be as it is.
By practicing "being" with life as it is, I'm able to be more centered and focused and present with my kids and in my life. I don't want to paint a picture of some serene mom with no mess or challenge—that's definitely not the truth! I'm a mom who gets frazzled, crazy, upset, and confused. But my practice helps to support my effort to be less reactive, less abrupt, less impulsive, and more present and open, which in turn makes me a better mom.
Yogis would agree with the mantra "You are what you eat, drink, and do." What are some of the benefits moms see when they take care of themselves?
When you take care of yourself, you are more able to take care of your kids, your family, your life. When you feel more balanced, strong, healthy, alive, and present, you bring those things into all aspects of your life.
Taking care of yourself has to be defined by you; no one else can define it. It may be getting a massage, reading a good book (even if it's in two-page increments!), working out, practicing yoga, walking with a friend, or knitting. But I think it's critical to take care of yourself by getting some exercise (get the body working and blood flowing), finding time to just sit and be quiet, and eating healthy and nourishing food (and not taking the pleasure out of eating). We all know what makes us feel good on a deep level, and it's not always what we think feels good (over- or under-eating or over- or under-exercising). If we really listen to ourselves, we know what we need.
How can practicing prenatal yoga help expectant moms, and how can it help them get their body (and mind!) back post-babies?
Prenatal yoga is wonderful for expectant moms. I believe that the body will prepare itself for birth, and prenatal classes can help with that process. Prenatal yoga helps to keep the body strong and flexible, which helps not just during pregnancy but also with delivery and post-partum. I credit yoga with giving me tremendous back strength, and I never suffered from back pain during the 39 weeks of my pregnancy.
However, I would encourage expectant moms to be careful not to overstretch in their yoga classes. The joints and ligaments are already loosening up with the presence of the hormone relaxin, so it's important not to push too far.
The breath work that is often included in prenatal yoga classes is also really beneficial for relaxation and focusing the mind—two hugely important things in childbirth!
Post-babies, yoga is a wonderful way to ease back into moving and strengthening the body. For me, my body felt so foreign after I gave birth! Yoga was a great way to reconnect and begin to explore this "new" body of mine. And, as I mentioned before, yoga is just such a wonderful tool to encourage focus, mental clarity, and peace of mind—all things that feel so out of reach to a new mom of twins.
What is the best part of raising twins?
There are so many wonderful things! My kiddos are 2 and a half now, so it's getting to be so much fun with language and their ability to do so much. It is so amazing to watch them learn and to see how much they are capable of doing—it's mind-blowing, actually.
But the true joy and distinction of raising twins is watching how they connect with each other. They recently started going to preschool, and we told them that if they got sad or lonely, they could always look for each other. We were told later that not only did they look for each other, but that one would hug the other one if he or she was crying. That's something they did totally on their own! How amazing that they will have this bond throughout their lives. It is so special.
We can't thank you enough for sharing with us. Any last bits of advice you would like to pass along to new twin parents?
My advice to new twin parents is this: Your best is enough. There are so many logistical, physical, emotional, and mental demands and challenges on parents raising twins that a lot of other people don't understand. It took me a while to realize that it ultimately didn't matter if others understood. What mattered was believing that I could be a good parent to two babies—now two toddlers—and that I needed to do whatever I needed to do in order to allow me the space and energy to be a loving, nurturing, caring, and engaged mom.
Ellie Burke, M.Ed., E-RYT 500, is Co-Founder and Director of Teacher Training for YoKid. Having experienced the benefits of yoga firsthand over 10 years ago, Ellie partnered with Michelle Mitchell to start YoKid in order to bring those benefits—including overall health, a profound sense of mental and emotional balance, a general sense of well-being, and greater patience—to all kids.
Ellie currently lives in Richmond, Virginia, with her husband and their twin son and daughter. She provides regular group and private instruction in yoga and meditation, encouraging students to discover the limitless potential that is within; that which is whole, complete, universal. It is her hope that all people will feel welcomed, supported, challenged, and open to the countless benefits of yoga.
"Let nothing dim the light that shines from within." ~Maya Angelou
More about Ellie:
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