by Jenny Everett King, CYT
It’s a quiet Monday morning, and I’ve returned from a weekend professional workshop absolutely determined to reestablish a consistent yoga practice. After feeding the kids breakfast, I turn on the least guilt-inducing children’s programming I can find, vacuum the worst of the dog hair out of my practice space, unroll my mat, and promise myself that the next hour is my own time.
Five sun salutations into my practice, my 2-year-old wanders in and announces, in one simple word (which may or may not be in the dictionary), that he needs his diaper changed.
While changing him, I do my best to stay tuned into to my breathing and my body. But really, who takes a full, cleansing, energizing inhalation while handling a dirty diaper? It’s just a bad combination.
Before children, I was the perfect yogini. No, not really. But I had a consistent one-and-a-half to two-hour meditation, asana and pranayama practice five or six days a week, and a dedicated yoga room in the house. Then my morning practice gave way to morning sickness, and the yoga room became the office so that the office could become the baby’s room. While I continued to teach and attend classes, my own personal practice disintegrated.
To my surprise, the event that brought me back to the heart of yoga was the culmination of the factors that had distracted me in the first place: giving birth. At no other time in my life have I felt so completely present, so in tune with my body, so inherently certain of a higher power, as I have in the moments of giving birth to my children. But a regular asana and pranayama practice? I’m still searching for that.
Traditionally, children and household responsibilities have been considered incompatible with the ascetic lifestyle of a yogi – and for good reason. Hours of asana and meditation simply do not mesh with the demands of responsible early parenting. However, I believe that this necessary adaptation is the perfect illustration of what yoga is really about.
Yoga is not about hours of poses and breath work. It is not about sitting to meditate uninterrupted. Are these tools useful and important? Absolutely. But they are just that: tools. Asana, pranayama, and meditation are a means to an end, not an end in themselves. The end goal is absolute presence, mindfulness, complete awareness. Yoga offers everyone the tools to adapt to and cope with stress, adversity, and disappointment. It helps us to keep perspective, to remain conscious of the “big picture” in the midst of daily distractions. The ability to maintain perspective is valuable to every person on the planet, especially parents of young children.
After changing the diaper, I return to my mat. No sooner have I come into Paripurna Navasana than both kids enter. My four-year-old begins playing on the floor next to me, while my two-year-old climbs into my lap. After several admonitions that “Mommy needs some time for herself,” accompanied by creatively incorporating a 25-pound child into several seated asanas, they return to the TV. Eventually, the background music for my Savasana is not devotional chanting but the theme song to Caillou™.
In Mama & Baby Yoga later that day, I found myself explaining to a new student, “Don’t expect to practice all the poses in a single class.” Invariably, at least one mom is sitting on the floor nursing, or changing a diaper. Babies simply take priority over asana. Class does not end with a traditional Savasana (total relaxation), but rather a guided breathing time to promote relaxation and mindfulness.
As a parent and as a yoga teacher, I am not entirely convinced that mothers are meant to “let go completely,” the instruction so commonly heard at the end of yoga class. Mothers of young children, particularly breastfeeding moms, are not wired physically nor emotionally for complete detachment. Understanding and accepting this deviation from traditional yoga guidance is fundamental to offering women a yoga practice relevant to their lives.
All yoga classes at Healing Hands Chiropractic are designed to help you make yoga a part of your everyday life, not just a series of poses you do once or twice a week. Our personalized approach is rooted in our commitment to help you start yoga from where you are (and not from some place you think you “should” be). This applies to women at all stages of life, from pregnancy through menopause and beyond.
In honor of Mother’s Day, Healing Hands Chiropractic is offering a special discount on yoga class packages during the month of May: Buy one package, get the second at 50% off. This is a great opportunity to share your love of yoga with a mother, sister, or friend. Call 603-434-3456 for details, or stop by the front desk after your next class.
Please join us Saturday, May 22nd, from 12 to 3 pm, as we honor women of all ages at our Women’s Day of Wellness. This enriching afternoon will include complimentary chair massage, reiki, yoga, and refreshments. We will be accepting donations to benefit Elliot Hospital’s Postpartum Depression Taskforce.