I recently wrote an article for Om Yoga magazine about the challenges and wonders of combining yoga and motherhood. My own practice has changed a lot – I think for the better – since becoming a mother. I’ve always loved how my practice allows me to be in the present moment but it’s so easy to lose this focus off the mat. Spending time with my daughter, walking (sometimes painfully) slowly, examining every tiny little creature or flower, and really experiencing our surroundings – I feel extremely present. And all the better for it.
Here’s the full article:
Motherhood and Yoga
The first year of motherhood is tough. Faced with the challenges of sleep-deprivation and rollercoaster hormones, how do you find space for your yoga practice? The key is to adapt…
Feeling tired, emotional, a little crazy? Welcome to the first year of motherhood. Having a baby is all consuming; it’s hard to find a minute to yourself, let alone the time to roll out your mat for self-practice. Then there is the stress of trying to work out how to keep someone else alive and the feeling that everyone else is doing it better than you, which make it very hard to steady the mind. But you can, and will rediscover your practice. It just might change a little – or even a lot – along the way. And maybe this will be the best thing that has ever happened to it.
Here’s a few tips of guidance on how to adapt your practice:
Take your time
If you had a regular asana practice before you became a mother, you’ll no doubt want to get back to it. But be patient. Let your body recover and go to postnatal or mother and baby yoga classes before going back to a regular practice. And when you do get back to your usual classes and self-practice, be kind to yourself. Tune into your body and how it is feeling now. Practice for the body that you have today, not the one you had before or the one you want to have in six months time. Listen to how you are feeling and act accordingly. Stretch out the body with slow, soft sun salutations, modify poses whilst you rebuild strength and treat your body with the respect it deserves for getting you through childbirth.
Breathe into the belly
If your physical practice has to take a back seat, take the opportunity to focus on breathwork instead. By lengthening the breath, we still and quieten the mind. In times of chaos – a fretting baby, an awful night, crisis of confidence, a chocolate shortage – and when things are tough, come back to the breath. Slow it down, breathe into the belly and fill the body with fresh, life-giving breath. Exhale out fear, anxiety and negative thoughts. Think of the breath as your hidden superpower, something you always carry with you and can call upon in a time of need. If you are lucky enough to have a hand free – bonus! Place it on the belly and feel its gentle, rhythmic rise and fall. Results are instant.
Chant or sing your heart out
Babies really do love to be sung to. The vibrations and sounds are comforting and calming. Sing loudly, sing quietly, sing badly, just sing. Your baby will not judge you! And try some chanting or whatever comes from the heart. I’ve lulled my daughter to sleep numerous times with long, soft ‘om’s or by using hummingbird breath. And it has been just as soothing and meditative for me as for her.
Make friends with moola bandha
Advice for life, not just for the first few months. It will take time to regain pelvic floor strength and patience is paramount here. But find moola bandha – the root lock – and use it. When we practice drawing up through the pelvic floor and gently drawing in the lower abdomen, we support the body and regain the strength we need to look after ourselves and our babies. Try and think about engaging moola bandha when you lift your baby out of the cot or into a highchair. Using moola bandha is also one way to start rebuilding a strong and stable asana practice.
Take your practice off the mat
Frustratingly, at a time when support of peers is paramount, is not uncommon to feel judged by other mothers around you or to feel that everybody else has it all sorted and is doing a far better job. Perhaps this is the time to remember the importance of practicing loving kindness to others. We are all in this together and the glossy, smiling mother you see in the park is no doubt experiencing the same struggles as everyone else. Many remarkable things are achieved every day when mothers group together and support each other. Be part of the energy around you and find and extend support.
Experience the ultimate savasana
Trying to practice savasana at home with a baby or at a postnatal class often means leaning against a wall whilst breastfeeding with your eyes closed (multi-tasking at its finest). But on the odd occasion when the timing works in your favour, there is nothing like lying in savasana with a sleeping baby on your chest. It’s like the whole world is standing still, silent and peaceful. A moment of utter bliss. I like to think of this as the holy grail of yoga secrets that nobody tells you before you have a child. Sure you might have to try 10, 20 times before you actually get the timing just right, but when you do, there is no parallel experience.