As mothers Yoga can become our friend for life. Yoga is a practice for mind and body, heart and soul. The postures stretch and strengthen our physical body whilst the breathing and meditations bring peace and calm to our inner world. Mothering is a journey of immense change, challenge and joy, requiring near constant stamina as we give, nurture and care for our babies and children through the decades of their lives. Once we welcome Yoga into our lives, we begin to realise that Yoga can be there for us always as we find our way through our mothering path. The practices, postures and philosophy can be an unwavering source of strength, support, peace and calm as we navigate the many physical, mental and emotional challenges which mothering presents.
Nurturing The Body
A regular practice of the postures, perhaps begun in pregnancy, helps us to become aware of our bodies. We feel the changes our pregnancies bring, and we learn to work with our bodies, rather than against ourselves. We can learn simple postures to help us to develop our core strength, and like I talk about in the pregnancy classes, we learn how to actively carry our babies, toning our core muscles, rather than letting the pregnancy pull on our spines and create pain. Similarly, when we carry our babies in slings, or around the house during their infancy, this knowledge of our body, posture and core strength reminds us to be mindful of our posture and to protect our back.
Yoga reminds us to be mindful of our physicality and not just to give, but also to be aware of how we, ourselves are feeling. Once we notice the aches and tensions in our shoulders from many hours sitting feeding our babies, carrying our toddlers and clipping children in and out of car seats, we know we can return to the postures and stretches to gently ease out this tension before it creeps up into a migraine or locks deeper into our muscles.
Breathing Brings Peace
Our breath is life and lies at the very heart of our Yoga practice. During pregnancy yoga we learn to connect with our breathing, to encourage the breath to find space around our baby. We learn how simply watching our breathing slows down all of our physiological systems, bringing a real sense of peace and calm throughout our entire being. Our breath becomes our bridge of connection between ourselves and our babies. We learn to breath slowly and mindfully, using the out breath to let go of what we no longer need, and the in breath to bring in the qualities which nurture ourselves and our babies.
In labour our breath is our number one support; we know we can take the breath deeper than any sensations we may be feeling, we can scoop all of these up and let them go with our long, deep exhalation. We practice this often in the Pregnancy Yoga and Birth Preparation classes, and we know we can place our trust in our breathing to get us through labour, simply breath by breath. Whatever twists and turns our labour brings, we know we have the breath, and we can breathe down to our place of peace and utter immovability, and we will have the strength to deal with what comes. And when we do so, however the events of our labour unfold, the empowerment and transformation we experience are life changing.
And once our babies are here, and they grow through all the stages of infancy and childhood, where nothing seems constant and we feel at sea as mothers, unsure how to respond, Yoga reminds us to breathe, to connect, to meet ourselves and our children in the present moment. To remind us that, just like in labour, as we breathed through the contractions, we can do it. Yoga takes us to a place deeper than whatever is unfolding around us or within us. We can breathe deeper than the frustrations and anger of our children as they thrash in temper, we can breathe deeper than our own frustrations and exhaustion which may cause us to react with anger, and we can find a place of strength and stillness from which to act. This is how Yoga works. It is there for us in the times of joy, as we breathe the bliss of love and connection with the flutters of our babies during pregnancy, and it is here for us in our times of struggle, reminding us that we can go deeper than the feelings, the experiences, the thoughts and the pain. And our breath is our constant guide.
Anchoring into the Present Moment
Through Yoga philosophy, and bringing our mind, body and breathing into unity, we learn to be fully present in each and every moment. And this is the ultimate gift of freedom which Yoga brings. And as mothers, the reminder to live in the present moment can become the sustaining mantra of our lives. Mothering is long, tough, challenging and constant as much as it is joyful, fun and blissful. There are times of great joy, and there are times of great challenge. The joys take us to the very depths of what it means to be human, we glimpse upon a love so deep, so pure, that we understand the meaning of life. And the challenges can nearly break us.
Yet through it all, Yoga is there for us, reminding us to breathe, to connect with ourselves, our body and our children. Reminding us that we are simply here, in the present moment, breathing, nurturing, being. And that like everything in this human experience, this time too will pass.
This philosophy reminds us to breathe in deep the moments of joy, love and connection; connecting eye to eye as our baby locks their gaze upon us and smiles, long chats with our older children, or the exciting and totally random stories our little ones come out with, giving us insight into their wonderful imaginations, we can use the breath to really breathe in these moments, knowing they are the gold dust of our mothering journey. We can breathe them deep into our bones and let their love and gentle simplicity wash through our heart centre.
Similarly, when we feel like we are on the losing side of mothering, totally worn down by the physical, mental and emotional energy which is required of us on a daily basis, the endless, interrupted nights of feeding and settling babies, nursing three children through the chicken pox, one by one, for weeks on end, tantrums and challenges as our children struggle with their feelings, we can feel totally depleted. Yet here once again we can look to our breathing, and our Yoga practice to nourish us. Our breathing keeps us strong and steady, taking us deeper than the experiences, deeper than the feelings, anger and frustration, to a place of peace, where we can find clarity and strength and access the true love and wisdom of our heart centre.
Mothering as Transformation
Yoga reminds us that nothing is permanent, and all we really have is the present moment. As we breathe deeper than everything which unfolds around us, we find our place of peace within, and it is from here we can respond, with the love, strength and wisdom that our children need, and that we so want to hold them with.
Like I explore in Milestones of Motherhood, mothering is a journey rich with potential for our own growth and transformation. And Yoga can be the companion through which we learn how to flow and grow with the challenges of motherhood and welcome the journey as one of growth, expansion, empowerment and transformation.
Open your heart to the deep challenges and joys of motherhood, welcome Yoga into your life and enjoy its nourishment and support throughout the whole of your being as you navigate the joys and the challenges which learning to love and mother our children brings.
Milestones of Motherhood is Clare’s first book which brings together the experiences of over 50 mothers and explores how learning to love and nurture our children is a journey rich in growth and transformation for ourselves as women. The book is currently being edited and will soon be available from Mother’s Milk Books.
Clare teaches a weekly Pregnancy Yoga and Birth Preparation class where women come together to share pregnancy experiences and explore postures, breathing and mediation which provide support during pregnancy, birth and mothering.