Monday, November 28, 2011

Nine Reasons Moms Need Yoga

One of the most common things you'll here from mothers is that we just don't have enough time to do everything we need to, especially for ourselves.  When you're streamlining your schedule, a yoga class may seem like a luxury you can't afford.  I'd like to encourage you not to cut it out and convince you that taking that sacred time for yourself is worth making your yoga practice a priority.

Reason #1 - You need time for yourself.  It's the greatest paradox of motherhood.  To be a good mother you need to be fresh and strong and energized, yet getting rest and relaxing seem like some faraway mythical dream when you've got young lives to attend to.  But the bottom line is, without that time to catch your breath and be quiet in the moment, burnout comes really quickly.  My teacher, Ma Jaya, always reminds us to "drink as you pour," to take time to be quiet and still and blissful so you can go out and serve others.  As we know, motherhood is one of the greatest ways to serve and you need to be full to do it well.

Reason #2 - Lifting and carrying a baby puts strain on your back.  Starting with pregnancy, carrying a baby challenges the back.  The only way to keep healthy is to stretch and strengthen the core and back muscles.  With a regular yoga practice, I had finally conquered sciatic nerve pain.  But when my son was born and I found myself lifting and lugging baby and infant carrier, the pain returned until I increased stretches around the hips and lower back.  There is no better exercise than yoga for keeping the back, hips and core muscles strong and flexible.

Reason #3 - Being healthy will increase the quality of time you spend with your children.  Just think how much more you can enjoy playing with your kids when you are feeling physically strong and healthy.  Every baby loves to be lifted high above your head.  Older babies and children love for you to run and chase them.  Keeping your body healthy is a gift to your child.

Reason #4 - It helps to build a sense of kindness toward your post pregnancy body.  There is no doubt about it, pregnancy changes your body.  We are hard enough on ourselves before the baby.  But then the baby is born and there is stretched skin, extra fat and atrophied abdominal muscles to deal with.  Yoga gives you a way to gently work with your body to get reacquainted with how it feels now that baby has left the premises.  You can start a gentle practice of kindness toward each muscle and each part of you as you start using those muscles again and letting your body slowly rebalance into a new state.  The message of yoga is to be in the moment, not thinking back on how flat your belly used to be or how many weeks it will be until you can get into your jeans.  Instead you can focus on your health and wellness and the miracle that your body enacted.

Reason #5 - You need time to remember who you are.  You are a mother but that's not all you are.  Yoga gives you a chance to catch your breath and focus on your spiritual essence, the core of who you really are.  Yoga is not just exercise or stretching.  It's an ancient tool for connecting mind, body and spirit and going into a meditative state.  Motherhood is a wonderful role that we play and an important gift to the planet, but it is not the totality of who you are.

Reason #6 - Meditation heightens your intuition.  Yoga is meditative, and if you find the right class you will have a meditation included in the practice.  Meditation has numerous benefits, one of them being an increased connection to your intuition.  Intuition is a mother's guide.  If your mind is busy and clouded with thoughts, you'll have a hard time receiving your intuition.  Also, meditation eases the mind and helps reduce fear-based thinking.  Fear can overpower the truth of your intuitive senses.

Reason #7 - Yoga helps you expand your whole life.  Ma teaches that when you reach and stretch in your yoga practice you are actually reaching and stretching into your life.  You are literally expanding your life.  You are opening your body and simultaneously opening to new opportunities and new blessings.  By practicing yoga you can create a beautiful, open, meaningful life to share with your child.

Reason #8 - It builds patience and restraint.  If there's one thing I've found absolutely essential to motherhood, it's patience.  Yoga makes you more patient.  It teaches you how to tune into the breath, the present moment, and to use the breath to hesitate before reacting.  In Kali Natha Yoga, the yoga I practice and teach, we practice an incremental bridge pose, raising the pelvis up a little higher each time, yet hesitating an inch away from "the top."  This is a practice of restraint.  The beauty of yoga is that you learn to practice on the mat and then it starts to spill into your daily life, or what we call "yoga off the mat."

Reason #9 - It makes you feel good.  If you've practiced yoga and felt that yoga buzz you know what I'm talking about.  If not, you're missing out!  A good yoga practice makes you feel calm, centered, blissful, energized, strong, steady, open, nurtured, compassionate and connected.  It brings you to your natural state of relaxed well being.  Be kind to yourself.  Forget all the good things you haven't done for yourself and let yourself be happy now.  I love the quote from Dr. Wayne Dyer that "when you're feeling good, you're feeling God."  Yoga offers you a way to feel good and feel God.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Mother's Intuition

I used to think Mother's Intuition was like something from an iconic Norman Rockwell painting: a beautiful notion, idealized, sugared, wholesome, admirable. . .but basically a pleasant cultural myth.

If you're a mother, you already know this, and if you're not, I assure you--Mother's Intuition is real.  There are these moments when you know something is not right for your baby.  Sometimes he's having a bad day and despite the conflicting advice of books, websites, friends, family and pediatricians, you know what your baby needs.

Wells loves his naps.
In my nine months of motherhood, I've used my intuition to make almost every decision I've had to when it comes to Wells.  I can say with certainty it has never let me down.  But learning to really trust it  took some practice.

When he was six months old I went back to work.  I had lined up an in-home care provider when I was pregnant.  She was licensed, experienced (over 25 years!), and well recommended.  I met her, liked her, trusted her completely, and I still do.  But the second day, when I picked him up, I knew it wasn't right.  I had this feeling.  This gut  feeling.  It just wasn't going to work.  Now I'm not talking about Wells being in danger or anything like that.  He wouldn't have gone back there the rest of the week like he did.  There were just some "little" things (that aren't so little when it's your baby we're talking about), that didn't sit well.

He only took one nap.  It worked better with her schedule with the older kids.  When I picked him up and she told me that, my stomach turned to heaviness.  My baby takes two naps.  He needs two naps.  The closest feeling I can relate my gut reaction to is a feeling of pure dread.  Clearly, naps are not something to instill dread.  But there it was.

My mind said, "Give it a chance.  Let's just see.  Don't be one of those overprotective, micromanaging type moms."

Day three.  I picked him up.  She didn't want to do the cloth diapers.  Could I send disposables?

Tightening.  Hardening.  In the gut.

If you've been reading my blog, you know I'm committed to being as green as I can.  I don't want to throw away loads of disposable diapers.  It feels wrong to me.  (If you missed it see A Mother Earth Day Crisis and Plastic Pants are Out and Other Things I've Learned about Cloth Diapering) When shopping for cloth diapers, the reason I decided on and bought Kissaluvs was that all the reviews said they were "just as easy as disposable diapers to change" and "perfect for care providers."

I took a breath.  "I can bring disposable diapers tomorrow, but can we work on ways for it to work for you?  I'm really committed to the cloth diapers and not wasting so much."

"I don't like the smell every time I open the bag," she replied.  There's a waterproof zippered bag that the diapers go in till I take them home and wash them and the bag.

"OK.  Maybe I can look into some other options for the bag, like individual bags for each diaper."

She didn't look convinced.  Or interested.

I put my very tired and cranky baby in the car.  I pulled out of her driveway.  The tightening and hardening traveled up my gut to my throat.  The tears started rolling down my face.  This isn't going to work.

Never in my life could I have imagined the intense, primal feelings that took hold of me.  I had to do what would be best for my baby.  I picked up the phone to call my husband.  I'm sure I scared him when he heard me blubbering, but I pulled it together and explained what I was feeling.

"Let's just give it a chance, not rush to any decisions."  He meant the best.  We didn't have any other ideas for childcare and this woman was a very nice and reputable person.  How could he know about the bowling ball that had taken up residence in my midsection?  The decision had already been made.

My teacher, Ma Jaya, has written that "intuition is not just spiritual, it is part of your body."  It resides in the third chakra in the pit of the belly.  That's where you feel it.  And at that moment, I felt it.

Tripp and I went back and forth about it that night.  He was very logical; I was very emotional.  After a while he saw it in my eyes.  He knew I knew.  It wasn't about fear or over-protectiveness or an emotional imbalance on my part.  It was about knowing what was right.

I said a silent prayer for a new caregiver.  Within a day and with surprisingly little effort I found one.  Tripp and I went to meet her and I knew. The three of us drove away from her house after meeting Miss Ann, and the bowling ball of dread was replaced with warm liquid peace.

Happy ending.  Miss Ann has been amazing.  Wells flourishes with her. Tripp and I have accepted that parenting isn't always about logic.  And I now know that mother's intuition is real.