Friday, April 1, 2011

Yoga for Mothers - Why it Beats all the Parenting Books

I think I’m finally starting to “get” yoga and it’s making me love it even more. Although I’ve dabbled in yoga for many years, I only began to truly enjoy it when I was pregnant. For the first time, I allowed myself to take a gentle approach instead of trying to keep up with the rest of the class (who were usually much more flexible than me). Since then, I have accepted the fact that I am not naturally flexible but I can love yoga anyway. And I love it because all the lessons I learn on the mat transfer to the rest of my life.

What yoga has taught me lately:

If you don’t pay attention to what you’re doing in the moment, you hurt yourself. Yesterday I tuned out, thinking about the future, and injured my hip. Tuning out is obviously one of the downsides of practicing at home. But when you live in the middle of nowhere with no class in sight, what else do you do? Next time I will pay attention and listen to my body. I think this lesson transfers to life. In a nutshell: Pay attention and you do a better job and have a better time.
The breath is your teacher. Since I don’t have the benefit of my previous (fantastic) yoga teacher, Alison, I have to be my own teacher. After reading Eric Schiffmann’s “Yoga: The Spirit and Practice of Moving Into Stillness”, I began to focus on doing the simplest poses, using the breath as a guide. I find that the breath tells me how long to hold a posture. If it is too laboured, it’s time to come out. If it is steady, I can hold the pose for a little longer. It also helps to move with the natural rhythm of the breath. After noticing my breath through the day I realised that it can also help me to be aware of when I am anxious (short, shallow breaths) or calm (soft and deep). This helps me to make decisions.
Every day is different, and that’s ok. Some days I am focused and flexible. Others, I can’t touch my toes and my mind constantly wanders. On these days, it’s tempting to give up and get down on myself or try to recreate the state of mind I was in the day before. Instead, I have been experimenting with accepting the practice as it is. I may not be able to touch my toes, but I can touch my knees PROPERLY, paying attention and using the breath as a guide. This way, even inflexible, unco days are just as successful as the flexible, focused ones. As a mother, this lesson helps me daily. Whether she sleeps, eats properly or grizzles all day, I have the power to work with the moment. When I remember this, bad days often look up.

So, yoga rules! I guess there’s a reason it has been practiced for thousands of years. I believe that motherhood and yoga are like peas and carrots. Note to self: Put down the expert book and practice yoga to find the strength to be a confident mum.

Anyone else practice yoga at home? I need tips for self-motivation and growing your individual practice without the guidance of a teacher.


  1. Yes, as of recently I can say that I am a regular practicing yogi (or yogini) now. And I'm motivated. I wish I could tell you what it was that made the difference, but I can't with confidence unfortunately, but I do know that I didn't and don't force it and that I doubt I could have done anything to bring this self motivated yoga habit on any earlier. Time did it for me. It was the time to love the experience of yoga and meditation. I was reading the book, 'Eat, Pray, Love' and the second part of the book pushed me through the desire (long forgotten) to set up a meditation room into actually doing it. I love my meditation room. I love the space and the energy in the room. And what I also gained from the book was a realisation that I do need to commit to practices that reconnect me with my divine self and all it's wisdom on a daily (atleast) basis if I want to experience the pure bliss Liz describes in her book that is not dependent on anything or anyone. Reading about this unwavering happiness has stirred something big within me. Maybe it's because I want it so much that I find myself deeply wanting to meditate, to stretch, to diligently choose my thoughts in each and every moment. I don't have rules about how and when and for how long I will do any of these because I don't respond well to rules and rigidity. So I follow my feelings and desires and I enjoy the practices. Today I danced and swayed after stretching. Other times I just want to be still and practice blanking my mind, even if just for a few minutes. When my body feels stiff I now enjoy spending time stretching and moving that part to help release it and send it love and gratitude for what is coming up to be released that my attention is being drawn too. Just like you I aim to embrace the moment and practice accepting whatever is. Thank you for your sharing.

  2. Thanks for commenting, Vera. I like what you said about sending stiff parts of your body love and gratitude. It's so easy to get frustrated and angry with your body when it won't work the way you want it to. But its so much better to be grateful to it for bringing attention to what needs to be released. Good reminder!

  3. Agree!!! I take classes at a local yoga room, so I don't have too many recommendations for practice at home, though I do use some videos (and that helps).

  4. Sometimes the thing that motivates me the most is a new sequence that I never would have thought of - can keep me going for weeks. If you can't make it out to a class (neither can I), youtube has heaps of videos of full classes that you can watch simply for new ideas. I find using videos for my practice makes me lose my breath, so I prefer to just fly solo, but I'm always looking for new ideas. Plus it's motivating just to see other amazing people doing yoga... sigh.