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.