Go With the Flow

I visited a delightful yoga studio today.

So delightful that it made me wish I still had a baby so I could attend mom and baby yoga there. The wish of a woman so far removed from pregnancy and new motherhood that it only sounded slightly ridiculous as I voiced it.

I had grand dreams of doing yoga with baby. With my first pregnancy, I practiced prenatal yoga up to two weeks before delivery. How fun and rejuvenating it would be to practice postpartum.

It never happened.

Unpaid maternity leave was a practical reason, but the all-encompassing new job of mama was the overarching one. Get dressed? Leave the house? With an infant who could demand milk at any given moment? In public?!

During pregnancy number two, I didn’t even make the prenatal yoga studio. I bought a DVD set. I followed the safety guidelines at the start of the program to a T, watching the routine all the way through before practicing. That was as far as I ever made it. Usually by the end of Phase I, I would be half-asleep on the mat.

Pregnancy number three? Ha ha ha ha ha. I was lucky I could walk by the end of it – literally.

I did eventually try a postnatal DVD purchased at the same time as the prenatal one. The cover showed a picture of a radiant Shiva Rea holding her plump, beautiful baby. All the intro material showed the glowing yoginis cradling their babies while holding various poses. I looked forward to bonding with baby and regaining my strength. The flow itself was great; in fact, I still use it five years after my last to rebuild those still bent and broken places of my body. But the closest my baby got to the action was swinging beside me. There were no poses incorporating her, no touch, no bonding. It was yoga ‘while your baby sleeps or plays quietly beside you.’

There is a certain pang of regret in my solar plexus that I never got my mom and baby yoga fix. Again, not so much that I want to start that whole chain of events all over again, but enough to make my harpy hindsight crystal clear.

My advice to new mothers – don’t wait till you get your shit together to do something you really want to with baby. You never will.

Now before you bludgeon me with yoga bricks, let me explain exactly what I mean.

It took me five years after the birth of my third child to realize that all those imperfect moments for going to yoga, starting a new activity, walking to the park, visiting a relative – were all missed opportunities for fun with baby. Opportunities for me to save just a bit of my sanity. To bond with other moms in the same disheveled boat as me. To seize a fleeting moment in time.

Just when we mothers think we have our shit together, our kids shift into the next phase of development. We are in a constant cycle of up, down, back, forth – that if entered into with unrealistic expectations can leave us feeling as disconcerted as a set of sun salutations at the end of our yoga practice.

Just as there’s no right time to buy a house, switch jobs, or go back to school, there is no pinnacle of motherhood we must reach before we start living the lives we want with our babies. Such a pinnacle does not exist. Just as in yoga, we must accept our inner mother in its current state – and honor it.




Has a massage ever brought you to tears?

Tears that spring out of nowhere at the release of tension you didn’t even know you had.

The line between physical and psychic stress often blurs.

We often operate at such a high level of continuous stress that it doesn’t even register unless we disturb the flow.

A few months ago, my father and I attended Tai Chi classes.  It was something he had wanted to try for quite some time.  I found a class offered at the community center in my town and we went.  I was used to the gentle flow of yoga, which the instructor told me is a cousin to Tai Chi, but this required an even higher level of calm and restraint.  With my high-strung, perpetually-on-a-treadmill ways, it was a stretch of a different kind.  I told myself to slow down as my cloud hands swept across the room, but it was something long since foreign to my body.

At one of the sessions, our teacher led us through a meditation we’d never done before.  I didn’t know how relaxed I could get without lying prostrate on the floor, but I dutifully took my breaths and moved my hands – and started to cry.

It was not a bad day.  I did not feel overly stressed, anxious, or upset.  And yet, once I allowed my body and mind to slow, the pressure slack, the excess overflowed.

I wanted to kiss this little old lady for releasing my five elements.

But I need to channel my own little old lady.  I cannot look outside for inner contentment.  I must make the time to stretch in the morning, to adjust my posture, to make a mental scan of my body and release the tension.

I need to be more self-aware and body-aware so that a small chink in the dam doesn’t lead to a crazy rush of water I didn’t even know was collecting.  It shouldn’t take a breach to make me notice the physical, mental, and emotional stress I’m holding.

My mental and physical health should be about maintenance, not damage control.


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