yoga and motherhood

when a solitary practice becomes shared

My yoga practice was always something sacred, a time of solitude and dedication whether or not I was alone. My mat was a sort of private sanctuary, interrupted only by the cat who might decide to lay in the middle, forcing me to challenge my jump through to resemble a sort of horse jumping competition.

That all changed once my daughter was born. My yoga practice took a back burner, but as my daughter grew I desperately needed that solitary dance to become a daily practice again. Little did I know that my once hurried savasana wouldn’t barely be a savasana, but more of a 20 breath pause to try and convince my heart to slow down.

As parents, and perhaps more so as mothers, we are constantly being touched, used as a source of comfort, source of food and nurture. These were all things I loved, but also that drained me as the months passed and my daughter became more active. I no longer had the same private time to journal, meditate and allow myself to process the day. I never thought that being a mother would mean sacrificing my own body so completely, so willingly, and yet leave me with a strong desire to get my body and life back for me.

When I returned to my daily yoga practice, even when I started at 5:30 am, it was almost always interrupted by the cries of my daughter wanting comfort at my breast, to be held, to just be with me. My practice was no longer solitary. My practice became part of my relationship with her. What I felt on the mat, what emotions came up, reflected the frustration I had about wanting to simply be me and have the freedom I once held as the most important thing in my life.

My yoga mat was still a sacred place, but one which was no longer mine alone. I had to learn to share, to let go of the attachment to what I thought my yoga practice was supposed to look like, to let go of the physical space of both my mat and myself. My mat became a sanctuary for more than just uniting breath and movement. It became a place to breastfeed, change pyjamas, cuddle and play peak-a-boo.  

No longer taking my practice so serious, I learned not to sweat all the little things, to further let go of the anxiety that plagued me and most of all to share the mat and practice time I held so possessively, and also to give.

Now that she is 3, if she’s home when I’m practicing, we roll out two mats instead of one, she can do a Sun Salutation A, la rana (Italian for frog and what she calls malasana), legs up the wall and more. The yoga mat is place where I can teach her be with herself in the present moment, to accept what is, to learn patience when she says she can’t do something. It’s a place where she learns to challenge herself and her fears. Most importantly for any toddler or preschooler, my yoga mat is where I find it easiest to help her learn to feel and understand the emotions she cannot yet put into words.

Although I wish I had my yoga mat with me for every meltdown, having her both interrupt and participate in the practice has helped apply the lessons of yoga in everyday life. My yoga practice is truly sacred and now also shared. It has helped me let go of my selfish side and accept who I am as a mother and a person in this moment. Ever imperfect, ever changing, I find places of union with those around me, beginning with the one who was part of me to begin with.

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