This week’s blog entry was written by guest author Shelley Curtis. Shelley is a graduate of Whole Life Yoga’s teacher training program and a yoga teacher at Whole Life Yoga. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you’d told me in my 20s and 30s that I would someday be both a yoga teacher and a mother, I would’ve giggled myself silly. But yoga – and motherhood – found me when I needed them the most.
In our late 30s, my partner (now husband) and I were quite content with being childless; watching in amusement how chaotic and out-of-control the lives of our friends with children appeared to be. But at some point we began to feel that having children would bring more joy than chaos. We were ready for a change in our lives that would bring self growth and a new perspective.
At about the same time, I injured my back and began practicing hatha yoga to rebuild my strength and flexibility. Once I conceived, my growing belly made practicing the asanas I was used to more challenging. A friend (later one of my viniyoga mentors) invited me to come to her prenatal yoga series at Whole Life Yoga. I didn’t know anything about viniyoga, but I was eager to find a yoga practice that I could continue through my pregnancy.
Turns out, viniyoga was the exact thing my body needed. At the time, I had no idea it was also exactly what my mind needed. I focused on the physical aspects of my practice, but little by little I began to connect breath, body and mind.
My transition to motherhood wasn’t quite as smooth.
I felt overwhelmed, isolated and I struggled with my new identity. I realize now that I was completely attached to the outcome of my actions. I measured my success as a mother by how well my child nursed, slept, ate, and behaved. I loved my son with all my heart, but my mind was often occupied by thoughts of the future and planning for what was (maybe) to come. Sometimes being in the present moment was too painful and scary.
Even though the first couple of years were a struggle at times, the joy of being parents overcame us and we decided to have a second child. My pregnancy coincided with my teacher training at Whole Life Yoga. What a gift! I loved learning about the physical asanas, sequencing and anatomy (ok, maybe not anatomy). But the real joy was learning how to quiet my mind – how to stay present with my breath and my body. As a result, my transition to motherhood the second time seemed way less overwhelming. Yes, I had done it once before, but I truly believe my attempts to internalize the principles of yoga made the difference.
My viniyoga practice made me a better mother.
The effects of viniyoga on motherhood come in many shapes and sizes. First, I am able to be in the present moment more often and more fully. Second, I am better able to practice non-attachment, which frees me (to some degree) from the outcomes of my mothering. Third, paying attention to my breath and trying as best I can to live in the present moment make me less reactive and more patient. Finally, my yoga and meditation practices teach my kids about the importance of self-care, even if they don’t know it yet.
Motherhood and yoga practice are both life-long journeys that teach me to slow down, breathe, and be more fully present. I can’t think of a better combination.