I write about motherhood as an access point to the soul. Motherhood was the thing that cracked me open for the first time and exposed all my vulnerabilities. There was no hiding the unfamiliar, the learning curve of caring for a newborn, or the many stages of my body during and after pregnancy. My clothes didn’t fit and my tears didn’t stay inside.
Breastfeeding brought forth all my insecurities, like my fear of the unquantifiable. Could I actually trust my body to produce enough milk? How did I know he was getting enough? And was it ok that I didn’t find the experience that enjoyable?
I was forced to connect with my body, and listen to all the ways I criticize it. I had to continually practice how I managed success as well as failure – some days I went to bed giving myself accolades for being such a good mom. Other days I wondered how I would ever get through new motherhood and what on earth was I thinking by having a baby. I wrapped my self-worth up in my perceived performance that day – good or bad, worthy or unworthy, succeeding or failing.
It’s dangerous to take something as innate and deserved as self acceptance and base it on anything external, like how you are as a mom, a wife, or a caregiver. If we only accept ourselves fully when we do “good” then we miss the opportunity to learn and grow from our mistakes. We also misunderstand that human worth is allowed to all of us, regardless of status, relationship, education, current circumstance, or life setback. Nothing external should determine our worth.
Like motherhood, yoga teaches us radical self-acceptance. We arrive on our mat and accept what the class will bring. We press our hands together at heart center and bow our head to embrace compassion – Let me be where I am for this hour. Let me honor my body and my inner voice, whatever it tells me today.
The image of yoga – a thin, beautiful woman, wearing $100 yoga leggings, stretching gracefully into challenging poses, perfect, defined, and with sweat dripping in all the flattering places – this image is simply an advertisement.
These images have nothing to do with yoga tradition or philosophy. Yoga is a practice meant to bring us into greater awareness of self. We gain acceptance and insight into who we truly are through our breath and through our body. Like any physical activity, your body will become more in shape and more defined through a regular yoga practice, but this is not the main goal.
Yoga is a physical and spiritual practice.
We access our intuition through the body. Showing up to yoga class and engaging in a regular practice is all it takes to settle your mind, settle your cells, and return your body to state of calm. I’ve never left a yoga class without more clarity around a situation. I’ve never left a yoga class wishing I hadn’t come. I’ve never regretted leaving the household chores in order to do my yoga.
In stillness, we are able to receive. During our busy lives and in the midst of chaotic motherhood, there’s no space to breathe, or to listen. We focus so much on the children and our family we lose sight of ourselves.
As a mom, if you’ve never stopped running, you’ll be surprised what pops into your mind during a yoga class. First it might be the shopping list, or the to-do list, or that doctor’s appointment you never rescheduled… the gift to buy for your cousins upcoming wedding, what dress you should wear to the party next weekend… But then, as these daily thoughts pass through, you notice your breath. So you allow the surface thoughts to slip away for now. They will still be there after class, clamoring for your attention.
You sense your inhale in your belly and your exhale in your ribcage. Yes, you are breathing, just like every day and every night without even noticing. But now, while on your mat, you do notice. The teacher has mentioned breath several times already but you’ve been working to stand on one leg and haven’t really paid attention. Now that you have the balance, you notice – the inhale, the exhale, and the inhale that always arrives again.
Your brain feels softer, and despite all the “lists”, for a moment, you feel some peace. And peace feels good.
You inhale again, and exhale. Your mind softens more deeply. You realize you have been balancing on one leg for several breaths now, something you never would have been able to accomplish in your living room, with the tv on and kids running around. Possibilities exist here, in this quiet, dedicated space. You no longer feel boxed in or inadequate. You no longer feel guilty for not being able to get the baby to nap or for feeding your family take out for dinner. You feel strong, and you feel worthy – because you are these things, and yoga always reveals the truth.
My yoga practice has saved me more than once. I encourage you to find a compassionate class that speaks to your ability and interests. Hot yoga, flow yoga, gentle yoga, whatever suits you and can become part of your routine. Even 5 minutes a day of consistent practice will have miraculous effects. Wake up and breathe into your belly. Ask your heart a question. Listen for the answer. This is yoga. It’s not just flexible poses; it’s discovering how you handle success and how you handle failure. It’s understanding how you base your worth and how unnecessarily critical you are when things don’t go your way. Like the daily practice of motherhood, there is so much to learn about ourselves through yoga.
Especially for new moms, yoga is there to hold you and guide you, and to remind you of how amazing and worthy you really are.
I’m co-hosting a yoga and writing retreat in Madison August 27, 28, and 29! Anyone is welcome to attend regardless of yoga experience. There will be something for everyone at every level. Come explore true self on the mat and on the page with me and my amazing Writing Sherpa! Learn more here.