Yoga has been a part of my life longer than my kids have.
I started practicing yoga when I was 18 years old and a brand new college student in New York City. College life was exciting and a little stressful. Plus, I was living on my own for the very first time in a strange, wonderful, and at times, overwhelming place, which was also exciting and a little stressful.
I needed an anchor.
I needed something outside of my classes and outside of my friendships that was just mine. My parents, who’d recently started taking yoga classes, suggested I try yoga. Like any good, rebellious 18 year-old, I ignored their advice for a few months.
When I finally gave in and went to my first yoga class, I sheepishly admitted to myself that I’d been missing out on something that would radically change my life.
Yoga became my refuge. My yoga teachers became my fairy godmothers.
I went several times a week. I soaked up as much goodness as I could. I quite literally transformed under the tutelage and care of my teachers.
I stopped treating my body like my enemy and instead started treating myself with respect, generosity, and kindness.
It wasn’t an immediate transition. The transformation took time and the path wasn’t always straightforward. I hit lots of obstacles along the way. But yoga helped me navigate the bumpier spots and move forward more gracefully.
From early on, yoga taught me a lot about life and living and how connected everything really is.
When I became pregnant, I congratulated myself on how well prepared I was, thanks to my yoga practice and my yoga fairy godmothers.
Then my daughter came roaring into the world, full of fire and beauty and uncertainty. Motherhood slammed into me like a wrecking ball. Everything I thought I knew shattered into pieces and I spent the first year of Milly’s life relearning everything, as I put the pieces back together into a completely new shape and order.
What I discovered was that yoga was going to help me reclaim my sense of self and help me realign to the healthy habits that I’d cultivated in the years before becoming a mom.
What I didn’t realize was how much motherhood was going to teach me about yoga.
The 4 things that Motherhood has taught me about yoga:
The High Value of Rest
Before having kids, I’d often leave class before savasana so I didn’t have to bother with the quiet and stillness that made me so uncomfortable. I rested in down dog instead of child’s pose. And I never took the “easier option” when it was offered.
Now I crave rest and look forward to savasana. This is probably because at nearly 5 and 2, neither of my kids sleep through the night reliably. So I take it where I can get it. I think it’s also just the realization that I can’t function on pure adrenaline and stubbornness alone.
I even do restorative yoga poses now, which is a radical change from Naomi, pre-kids. Before becoming a mom, I ignored restorative yoga. I decided it was too boring and I had other, more important things to do on my yoga mat. I shake my head at silly, well-rested Naomi of the past as I pile up the blankets, set a timer, and recharge my body for 15 minutes.
To Love Rising Early
The truth is that I’ve always been a morning person. On the rare occasions that I’ve slept in, I get all panicky that I’ve missed usable time during the day. That said, I didn’t always LOVE waking up early. I’d do it begrudgingly. I’d check my email, scroll through facebook, and in general dawdle until I absolutely had to get moving and get out the door.
Now, I relish my mornings. I wake up early. Really early. Often I’m the first person awake, although Archer does like to get up before 6am, sometimes.
Still, when I wake up, it’s dark outside and quiet inside. I have a sweet little morning routine that helps me wake up. I prep the meals for the day. I sit in meditation. And I do yoga or HIIT or go for a run. Usually, by the time I’m on my mat, one or both kids are awake and they join in, but sometimes, it’s quiet until at least 7:30am. These mornings are magical and I’m grateful for them.
Time is What I Make of It
Everyone has the same amount of hours in the day, right?
Some people might argue this isn’t true, but it is. Time isn’t a luxury that only some people have. Time is how I choose to use it.
Before having kids, I’d roll out my yoga mat at 10am and practice for an hour. Or sometimes I’d go for a run at 6:30am and then come home and roll out my mat and practice.
Now, I usually have about 30 minutes to move my body. Some days I have more, but even on those days with more time, my mat is often invaded by my kids.
I don’t warm up as thoroughly for some yoga poses and that’s ok. I’m just glad I did it, even if the pose felt a little tight.
I move my body every day, no exceptions, even if it’s just for 5 minutes or 10 minutes. I prioritize movement. It’s not about having an hour or trying to replicate a studio class or getting to do fancy poses. It’s about getting on my mat and moving my body and feeling good.
I’d Rather Play and Have Fun Than Be Perfect.
I used to want my practice to be perfect. I wanted to be an asana superstar. I wanted to be able to do all of the fancy yoga tricks.
After I became a mom, I wanted to share my practice more. I wanted to let me kids in and enjoy it with me. And most of the time, I still do.
So I’d rather welcome in the messiness and the wobble and get knocked out of poses. I miss the fancy poses and funky transitions and I do them sometimes. But more often, I appreciate being playful and silly over being the picture perfect yogi,
4 things yoga has taught me that have made me a better mom.
Breathing is a survival skill
Breathing is life, so yes obviously it is a survival skill. When it comes to parenting, breathing is your secret survival skill. Breathing everything.
Learning to breathe through tantrums or when water splashed out of the tub or when a child who refuses to eat the food she just begged for, can be the difference between losing my temper and keeping my cool.
I’m not always so good at this one but I am getting better.
And as a bonus, my kids know how to use their breathing to calm down, too.
Using force never works
Try to force your body into a pose you’re not ready for and you will get injured.
Try to force your child to do something she doesn’t want to do and everyone will get hurt.
Force doesn’t work. I learned this the painful way in yoga. I realized early on as a parent that force wouldn’t work for my kids either. So I try to stop forcing things on them.
Maybe if I had access to THE FORCE it would be different…
Everything has something to teach you.
Yoga has taught me this so many times since day 1. Every single class I’ve gone to has taught me something, even the classes I didn’t enjoy or the teachers I didn’t agree with.
Yoga has reminded me to stay open to the possibilities and to go with the flow.
Instead of assuming I know everything, I try to stay open to the reality that things change. Instead of shutting myself off to those changes, I try to listen more and test out new ways of doing things and learn as much as I can.
I especially try to learn more from my kids. They already seem to know more than I do.
Not everything works for everyone. There are no universal rules.
I used to teach a style of yoga that proclaimed certain rules of alignment were universal. They weren’t. Even the idea that they were was problematic. It excluded some for not agreeing with every rule and shamed others for not doing it right in order for the universal rules to work.
Motherhood is the same.
There are no universal rules of parenting, unless you count the idea of moms doing their very best to raise happy, healthy kids.
We all have different methods of raising our kids. One way is not better than another. Not all methods work for all parents or all children.
When we hold some parenting methods or choices higher than others, we exclude and shame those moms who do things differently.
So even though yoga has been around longer in my life, motherhood has taught me a lot about yoga. At the same time, yoga has laid the foundation for me to be a more conscious mother. More aware, more prepared, and more open to what motherhood is going to throw at me.