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The “work” of yoga is finding a union between one’s mind, body and spirit. But many a yogi who has reached this seemingly unattainable union likely did not have their children toddling behind them.
I remember when my daughter was just a few week’s old. We sat on the coach in another marathon breastfeeding session. I looked to the left at the dish deluge in my kitchen, to my right at the profusion of laundry, then back down at my daughter who required every ounce of my attention, constantly. No yoga for this mama today. My body was hunched, tired and not in the mood to make beautiful postures anyway. My heart sank a little.
‘Yoga only works when you don’t have children’, I thought. I’d worked so much on connecting to my daughter when I was pregnant. Spiritually and physically we were one. Then she was on the outside. She’d cry and scream at me. In her shrill sob, I swear I could hear her saying, “That prenatal yoga and our supposed connection is CRAP, now fix my issue, fix it, fix it, FIIIXXXXX ITTTTT”
One morning feeling victim to her cries, I wrapped her up tight, held her close against my heart and chanted low “Ommmmmmmmmm”, over and over again. It worked. I had a faint grasp of the obvious in those early days and drew my conclusion: my daughter was my real yoga. She would teach me new ways to bring the yoga back into our lives, not just mine.
Some of us are new moms, in a new city, with no family near. In the absence of family and home help we might need to love the spiritual part of yoga, rather than getting out to “take” yoga as much as we once did. If we do take yoga, maybe we can be OK with bringing our child along. They might cry, squirm and feed through a fair part of class but there will be five breaths of peace and a posture somewhere. I now do the physical practice of yoga with my daughter and we actually have found a way to connect through this. Often I’m still wearing pajama bottoms that have pee or food on them, my hair is askew. As it turns out, this actually makes me do yoga, rather than making shapes with my body while wearing cool clothes. My daughter loves when I chant “Om.” She laughs; I breathe in that smile.
I do not believe that reading about finding the yoga in parenting will bring about peace and perfect health. I do, however, believe having a child can offer an opportunity to retrieve your best self from within. Even when it seems like every other woman on Pinterest and Facebook is doing it better than you.
Yoga “works” with children. You can find a union with your body by treating it as best you can, doing five yoga poses a day rather than the 30 you’re used to ( if you were a avid yoga posture practitioner pre-baby).
Finally the union of your spirit is recognizing what’s already within you. It’s an effervescent thing that existed when you were as small as your children. Let your child bring it out. Reading the ancient yoga texts I learned that yoga is a journey of the self (Atman), but our children are the extension of ourselves. Why not let them toddle behind us, teach us, show us authenticity? Maybe that can be an aspect of a parent’s modern day yoga. To use the words of writer Elizabeth Withey, “Look closer, there’s a secret message in the word “Mom,” Om.
This article appeared in the Saturday addition of the Times Colonist. You can find more on the Spiritually Speaking Blog.
You at around 5 and half months old
October 20th, 2011
“We are not responding to this instant, if we are judging any aspect of it. The ego looks for what to criticize. This always involves comparing with the past. But love looks upon the world peacefully and accepts. The ego searches for short comings and weaknesses. Love watches for any sign of strength. It sees how far each one has come, and not how far he has to go. How simple it is to love, and exhausting it is always to find fault, for every time we see a fault we think something needs to be done about it. Love knows that nothing is ever needed but more love. It is what we all do with our hearts that affects others most deeply. It is not the movements of our body or the words within our minds that transmit love. We love from heart to heart.”
– Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, introduced Transcendental Meditation to the Western world.
“You’re due this weekend and you can still bend down like that?”
My mind flashes back to my prenatal training and all the dancing down to Malasana (squat) I did day after day.
“Yes, I’m still quite mobile surprisingly” I joke to the store clerk who is still gap eyed at my mobility. She extends out her hand for me to take and I bob up with the receipt she dropped.
I’m in the 40th week of my pregnancy and I’m bopping and be-bopping around Vancouver’s West End. I, like many other new mothers, am expecting my baby will arrive on its due date.
Where does the yoga come in to all of this? Well- I am an expectant mama who has utilized yoga to teach myself and other mothers’ patience.
What I learned not only in my original 200-hour yoga teacher training but also in subsequent training is- anger and impatience with what IS pulls a person’s vibration down and is an extremely wasteful expenditure of accumulated spiritual merit. In Yoga patience is recommended as a countermeasure for frustration with what we cannot control. However, in my 85 hour prenatal teacher training my wonderful goddess guru Teresa Campbell taught me, being patient is much easier in theory than in practice, which is why they call it a practice.
Instead, Campbell suggests, we can dance with the discomfort of everyone asking where their baby is when it “hasn’t been born yet???. We can bask in knowing our babies know who we are and will come to us when they, our uterus and the entire body mind system is ready. Finally, we can be rest assured knowing, this precious time we have in the lead up to baby’s arrival is a lesson in and of itself that we could all use more patience in our lives.
As a woman, my desire to have a child was no secret to many. In Journalism school amongst a number of hard line, career driven will-be journalists, I was the one racing along on the career train with them…. but wiping their noses and chasing after them with bagged lunches so they’d eat right. I also taught my comrades yoga. Even if I didn’t know the mother was in me then, fellow students must have.
Even last year in our Ghanaian house in the thick of Accra I would ask my roommate Jessica (a very admirable and accomplished journalist)” Did you take your vitamins today?”….vitamins I’d given her and that I demanded she take….
She would glare at me and say “Yes.” I even suggested she could take them with her gin and tonic but preferably after her cigarette. But I digress.
For some reason, the more work I took overseas and the more time I spent alone, the more I resolved that I would be a mother in many ways but I wouldn’t necessarily be a mother to my own. I did grow impatient with this….until I met my other.
Within a year and a half, my other and I carried out a long distance relationship between West Africa and Vancouver, moved me from Nova Scotia across the country to Vancouver, got engaged, I attended three births and became a Doula and we conceived ( this last one was a surprise- but boy did it teach me to be patient with what I can’t control).
If ever I was impatient with all things maternal and marital, I got my comeuppance.
Journey back to my prenatal yoga teacher training. My life now, is the culmination of all of the above. My first lesson in patience was not finding out the sex of my child, I embraced the unknown.
My second lesson in patience was, rarely will anyone hire an expectant mother, even if they say that’s not the case.
My third lesson in patience is it’s ok for your partner to put his, or her, hands on your shoulders and tell you to sit down, put your feet up, and read a book, or go for a walk and see pieces of driftwood that are shaped like a pelvis for once ( see next post). It’s ok.
From the first moment I sat on my mat and chanted the Gayatri mantra with seven other women who came to learn to teach pregnant mothers how to be pregnant, enjoy yoga, celebrate their bodies and their babies- I was instantaneously patient and accepting of the unknown in this next chapter in my life, and my little unborn one’s life.
By the second day of training I stopped feeling guilty for indulging in yet another teacher training when I could be racking up EI hours for a maternal benefit.
By the third day of teacher training I was dancing with my pregnancy belly hanging out to Punjabi music.
By the end of my prenatal teacher training I felt full loaded with gifts to give my future students and families I will Doula for.
I’m now 41 weeks into my pregnancy and I feel stellar. This comment is not meant to make any pregnant woman who feels less than stellar feel meek or incompetent because she feels anything less than that- this blog posting is meant to illuminate the benefits and juiciness of prenatal yoga, and practicing patience. It’s a type of yoga that really is reserved for women. To celebrate our accomplishments, mourn and then accept our losses, and embrace that there will be more of the former and less of the latter if we accept and surrender to what life throws at us.Sometimes it takes 9+ months to do all of that
A Birth Shrine filled with presents from the women in my prenatal teacher training who gave me a “Blessing Way” Where each of them blesses myself and baby with words of encouragement.
September 18th, 2011
I read three sticks a few months ago ( see picture of “Exhibit A to the left of this piece)….I didn’t realize in that moment how much bringing you into the world was going to rock mine….but it’s ok because….
Today I am realizing, or maybe I have always known…that my passion in life is to be your mother. Yes, that will not win me any accolades in the woman’s lib movement. Maybe if you’re a girl some day you’ll relate to me and feel the pull between really “making something of yourself” as a woman in a man’s world and…… “just” being a mother who is passionate about raising her own kin right. I am passionate about the way you grow, what you’re going to need and what I can give you while we’re living in a 650 ft square apartment in downtown Vancouver. I am passionate about how I am going to bring you in to the world, and look after you inside of me the best way I can. How I will dress you, teach you manners, sit with you while you do your schoolwork and pick you up from lessons or sports or whatever you do. I am passionate about being your mother and not the Globe and Mail deadline that sits in front of me. I know some day I’ll spread my wings again, but for now, I’m really ok with “just” being your mother.
In this day and age I need to write this piece so I can contribute to giving you a life on a monetary level….but if I could have it my way I would be having you in 1908 and my job would be to be your mother and to help other mother’s carry and deliver their babies the way we were all meant to- consciously. Maybe I don’t want to be a subservient turn of the century house wife, but….maybe I’d be a midwife, like my great great grandmother was. She looked after her many children while helping other women give birth to and raise their own children. She had a job, but her moto was “family first.” When you are born I will hold you in my arms and say to you
“ Welcome to the world________you are hereby invited to rock my world. Pleased to meet you, I’ll be playing the role of your mother.”
I’ve just finished speaking to one of my reporter friends. She offered me a job back in Germany where I have worked twice before. The money is great and the work is palatable. I like it. I told her I was expecting you and she said “ sorry, no pregnant women,” the tone of our conversation shifted instantly. She felt bad for saying it so boldly but the work is on a military base, long hours and ……though she didn’t say it in as many words….the men we’re usually working with work interview better with a woman not carrying a few extra pounds on her that live predominantly on her belly.
I instantly felt limited.
Sure, I could have lied and not said anything and just showed up pregnant but I really don’t feel like being put in a judged… being the one who “lied on her resume.” Like I say, I wish you were my job at the moment. You want me to stay in one place and not fly on airplanes, you want me to try and get 8 hours of sleep every night, you don’t mind if I look a little chubby and don’t walk with my usual “swagger.” I chose a career that might not always be cool with me being your mummy….like, how am I going to go back and work in Africa while you’re at home? Maybe, the universe is telling me it’s time to officially make the change. I’ve attended a few births….maybe after I attend the birth of you we’ll see what happens.
Yes, you’ve already managed to rock my world but you know what? I like it, I think your father likes it ( as he may have grown tired of chasing me around the globe), and I think you like it too.
All right come on baby, I’m taking you to our mundane desk job here in Vancouver, but watch our space.
August 9th , 2011
Dear little one,
Well, since I last wrote you I had the pleasure of hearing your heartbeat and seeing you on an ultrasound screen at 10.5 weeks of age. Though you looked to only be the size of a potato you’re little heart flickered like a flame in your chest and made me smile. I read that at around your age you start twitching and moving but you you didn’t move very much. I asked the ultrasound technician if you were too young to move and she said sometimes babies your age just stay still. Right at that very moment you bounced right up, as high as you can go and you started moving your almost non existent little limbs. It was almost like you wanted mummy to know you were alive and well. I was so happy I cried and daddy squeezed my hand because he was so happy too.
Dad thinks you are a boy, I’m not sure what you are but every day that passes I love you more and more. I have decided to have a midwife deliver you. Deep down mummy would like to be a midwife too so she is glad that one will be looking after you and I. When mummy was little she wanted to be a doctor, a dancer, a singer or a firefighter. I wonder what you will be.
Mummy’s tummy is very tiny, it’s almost like you are not there. I told my midwife sometimes I don’t even feel you are inside me. So, the midwife put a little Doppler on my tummy and we heard your heart just beating away, you’re heart beats at a rate of about 140 BPM. I sometimes can’t believe that mum and dad made you all by ourselves and that now you have a heart rate. If you are a boy we are thinking of naming you Joel (Mommy’s favorite singer from her home town of Nova Scotia is named Joel), Simon ( Because your Grammy Sullivan wanted to name her son Simon but she never had one), Peter ( Peter is your grandpa’s name) . If you are a girl your name might be Evelyn ( You had a great great aunty named Evelyn, or Ev for short), Ina or Ena ( you also had a great great aunty named Ena from Whales), Lily-Jayne ( cause it’s cute and a double name like mine), Anais ( which means sweet smelling), or Ama ( That was mummy’s given name when she lived and worked in Africa). Hello sweet baby. You are now about 5.5 inches in length and I love the business of growing you.
The other morning I got out of bed and daddy said ” wow, you really are pregnant”. I have finally “popped” which means people finally look at me and know that you are inside me growing. This makes me so happy. We have been thinking about what we might name you again. We are now thinking if you are a girl we will call you Ina-May Evelyn and if you are a boy your name might be Simon, Joel, Peter (after your grampie)or Sidney.
Daddy also asked Mommy to marry her. We were at a beautiful beach over on Tofino Island in Bc. YOur daddy placed mommy’s grandmother’s diamond engagement ring in some seaweed. When I found the ring he got down on one ring and said. ” Sarah-Jane, I have loved our time we’re ve had together so far, and I am so happy that you will be the mother of my child- now will you marry me or not?” Just joking on the last part. I said yes and when we get married we’ll most likely carry you down the aisle in a little basket.
Your grammy Sullivan is so excited that you’ll be born. I bought grammy a pair of Amythyst earrings as that will be your birthstone when you are born. We’re going to Halifax to see her, your grampie, your aunts and uncle Josh in just a couple of weeks.
Before we fly to Nova Scotia mommy’s midwife checked her blood pressure and said everything looks fine. Your heartbeat sounds perfect too!
The other night I had a dream you were a little boy. Whether you are a boy or a girl doesn’t matter to me but I can’t wait to get to the bottom of that dream.
Now- onto how I look after you already.
Mommy is thinking of eating vegetarian for the rest of the pregnancy. I have learned that I can still give you all the nutrients you need without eating meat products. I cook lots of live and healthy foods for you. You seem to like them as you flutter after I finish eating.
Your daddy always buys chocolate cookies and sweets that tempt me but for the most part I ram some down my throat and pretend they’re chocolate and peanut butter balls of yummy.
Finally, I have been reading to you. Maybe when you read this you’ll remember me reading it to you. I read Roald Dahl’s “Vicar of Nibbliswicke” Your daddy laughed the whole way through. When I go back to Nova Scotia I will get you some more books and read them to you.
We love you very much.
P.S- We now think that if you are a girl we will call you Ena-May Evelyn. Or Ina-May. You choose ☺