Updated: Sep 30, 2018
Reflections on Motherhood, yoga and the practice of self-compassion
“There is nothing like motherhood.”. You might have heard of this saying coming from mothers before us. The depth and the breath of motherhood highlights the abundance of life and love. I’m a mother to a vibrant girl. Nothing has prepared me for all that comes with mothering. No book, advice, or planning has given me definite answers to what has unfolded in life in the past years. As she rested on my chest on our initial meeting I knew life has changed forever. I was responsible for this little human being from here on.
What I have come to realise is that motherhood is a crooked path full of surprises. There are days when it’s easy, and days when it can be overwhelming, confusing, and other times glorious, restful, organised, simply perfect. The eb and flow of this journey unpredictable yet most satisfying and possibly transformational if we allow it to be. It will change our lives whether we like it or not. It provides a landscape to explore our boundaries, get to know our deepest self, provide and receive love like no other – one that is unconditional.
Reflections from past, while planning for future has been part of my parenting journey. So much from childhood - how I was mothered, and how I blossomed as a child to adulthood - I reflect on some days. It is easy to get swept away with the stories and experiences from our past together with the daily mental and physical load we take on as mothers. It has at times left me feeling lost, and that I wasn’t good enough, or doing enough. The one thing that helps me feel grounded, centred, and allows me to step back and see stories and the mental fluctuations of daily mothering and life is my yoga practice. Through the movement with the breath (vinyasa), and in times of quiet contemplation in meditation, I am able connect to stillness. A sense of spaciousness where we are invited to simply be. Nothing to do, nothing to achieve. This has always been my sacred space where I can simply relax into my body, my breath, my thoughts.
Yoga, a rich, ancient, therapeutic practice can be healing. Practice has been a place of refuge for many as it has it has been for me. On days when life is overwhelming yoga practice has helped me re-focus through the breath. Mindful of movement and accepting of the healing gift the breath offers.
I have been teaching yoga for a decade and have been supporting prenatal and post-natal women. Many discover yoga and take their first class due to pregnancy, and what a lovely reason to do so. While others take their babies with them to attend mother and baby yoga and commit to attending class even when it takes a while and a lot of preparation to get from home to the yoga school. That is dedication! Apart from the physiological benefits of yoga , post-partum women come to yoga because they realise how isolating motherhood can be , and their time on the mat with others allow them connect not only with themselves but with other mothers too. Yoga brings women together, they move and breath together, fostering a sense of community and connection through the practice. Sharing stories, a cuppa, laughter and tears after class. I have witnessed meaningful friendships formed and strengthened during this special time. Students expressed how yoga practice has been a special time for them, a way to give back to themselves after those long days and nights. They recognise that it’s a special space where they can let go and experience clarity, and the emergence of their inner strength which they never thought they had before. These insights and revelations can be a pathway for self-study. The awareness we cultivate can inform our actions in daily living, encouraging us to connect with compassion, and gratitude for life itself.
I have always resonated with loving kindness meditation practice. It’s how I began my yoga journey. I was in my 20’s when my journey started, and at that time I was oblivious to what self-compassion truly meant. After many years, I returned home to this simple yet powerful practice over and over again and it’s something I share with students in class. In this meditation we send loving kindness to our loved ones, to ourselves, and the world by repeating the phrases,” May I be happy , may I be healthy, may I be safe. May you be happy, may you be healthy, may you be safe. May we be happy, may we be healthy, may we be safe”. We remember and honour our wholeness– our beauty, strength, the good and not so great days. Loving ourselves unconditionally and acknowledging that we are doing our very best as mothers. Through this practice we are given the opportunity to extend the same unconditional love, kindness, warm heartedness to our children and many others.
Yoga and mothering are life’s gifts. Both invite us to be open, receptive to how life unfolds day by day, breath by breath, and to be compassionate not only to our child but to look after ourselves as well with kindness. I love this quote from Myla Kabat-Zinn, co-author of Everyday Blessings, “Each difficult moment has the potential to open my eyes and open my heart”. Isn’t it so true? Motherhood is like an exciting, unpredictable, scary, fun roller coaster ride. Full of surprises. Our lives as mothers, as women, in our communities will be tested repeatedly. We must remember that the challenges, how difficult they maybe, are learning opportunities which can make us stronger, bolder than ever. It has a potential to lift us up and open our hearts and minds to this deep connection within ourselves and our children which paves the way for us to come home to our true essence which is love.