Weaving yoga into the fabric of Motherhood
“It is through your body that you realise you are a spark of divinity” BKS Iyengar.
Before children, I had the luxury of moving my body indulgently everyday. I taught private therapeutic yoga sessions and small group sessions and I also worked as a massage therapist so I felt it a necessity that each day I made my own energy a priority. I would play music, move through flows that opened and strengthened my body, and sit in silent meditation to connect with spirit before my day began. My body was employed everyday to help to heal others but I in turn took good care of my body and spirit.
As a mother, my body is now used constantly for someone else’s existence. My boobs for feeding, my arms for cradling, hands for wiping grubby faces, lips for kissing sore knees, back and shoulders for baby-wearing packs, eyes, and ears always listening and looking for signs of danger or discomfort. Yet with all of this, we lose our self-care. Our bodies overused but our connection to our bodies completely lost.
I’m sure you have heard the saying ‘you cannot serve from an empty vessel, but what exactly does filling yourself up look like? Each person is unique in how they nourish their temple, for me, it starts with movement and body-mind connection. We want to be bright and inspiring for our children, we want our inner spirit to shine through as they reteach us how to play and be totally in the moment, but if you want to express your spirit you must first feel your body. And likewise, if you want to feed your spirit, you must first nourish your body. How? by simply acknowledging it, feeling body, tapping into your internal landscape.
Practically and in it’s simplest form we breathe.
Check in with your body every day through 3 deep breaths. (check out my blog about how the simple act of consciously breathing will enrich body and mind).
Decreasing ‘faf’ is a must for increasing our self care time, do this by choosing a default yoga practice so when you have time, you don’t have to think about what to do. A downfall of online yoga is that when we finally get the time to practice we often spend too much time scrolling the internet to find the one we want. To minimise this and maximise your time on the mat, save a favourite class that you can always go to. With Collective Upside the class is new and fresh each week, so if you commit to this one class you take away the thinking and the searching, simply plug in and flow.
Sometimes, between changing nappies, burping, bouncing and nourishing little bodies, the 20minute yoga class is edged out of the day, but always remember yoga is cumulative. Just because you don’t have the time or energy for an hour-long class, does not mean you may as well throw the towel in completely. All those tiny 5minute moments of movement and breath mountain up to create a healthier, stronger you.
One yoga pose every day will deeply alter your body and mind. Here are two poses that are great for busy Mummas.
Adho Mukha Svananasana (Downward Facing Dog)
This pose offers a moment of groundedness when your world feels like it is constantly in flight. Really focus on rooting into the earth, imagining that you have roots that are growing from your feet and hands, deep into the center of the earth. If you can, do this pose outside on the grass, there are huge health benefits of earthing like this.
Downward Facing Dog is also an inversion so it is an opportunity to mindfully flip your world upside down and change your perspective.
Physically it strengthens and tones the whole body and creates flexibility in the shoulders, hamstrings, and calves.
1. Begin on all fours with wrists directly under shoulders and knees under hips. Press into the base of index finger and thumb (check out my blog about wrist pain to understand how to properly activate the
hands in Hasta Bandha).
2. Tuck the toes under and begin to straighten the knees as you reach
the hips to the sky. Keep the knees bent to prioritise a straight spine. Lengthen both side-waists toward the hips, reach tailbone toward the sky.
3. Push the floor away with weight through the soft part between index finger and thumb to create a strong line of energy through the inner forearm and upper arm, then gently roll outer edges of the armpits down to engage the external rotators of the shoulders. Broaden the shoulders by pressing shoulder blades away from the spine (moving left and right), slide shoulders away from the ears. (I know it’s a lot! Start with a straight spine and increase complexity when ready).
4. Eventually, and as flexibility allows, you can begin straightening the legs and stretching the heels to the floor.
Spread your base of support wide for an even more stable and grounded experience.
Take 3 huge breaths in this shape and then rest in Balasana (Childs Pose).
Paschimottanasana (Seated forward bend)
Deeply restorative, this forward fold stretches the whole back body, from the heels to the crown. Emotionally and spiritually it is the pose to bring alive your internal vision so that you can check in with yourself and reward a mini moment of inward reflection and meditation.
If you are new to forward folds or have always struggled with tight hamstrings (as many do), try this pose with a rolled towel or bolster under the knees and or a block or pillow under the seat.
1. Begin sitting with legs straight out in front of you, fingertips resting on the floor either side of the hips. Activate the legs, pressing them into the floor. Lengthen the spine and softly draw the lower belly into the spine and the lower spine in to meet the belly (keeping the natural curve of the spine).
2. Take a deep breath in and as you exhale reach the arms forward to grab the toes (or shins or strap), allow the spine to relax here but avoid cranking yourself forward with your arms and overly compressing the spine.
3. Inhale to lengthen the spine in this position, sending the chest forward toward the feet, and exhale to soften the spine again.
Enjoy this gentle undulation with the breath, or find a comfortable stillness.
Note - if you have back issues then keeping a neutral spine will keep the spine safe here so avoid rounding in the lower back and continue to draw lower spine toward the thighs, sitting bones reaching behind you as you fold forward.
If you find this uncomfortable try Viparita Karani (Legs up the wall), this is a beautiful tonic for tired legs.
Lastly, they say that the asanas of yoga open a door in the body for you to connect with the soul. So instead of thinking of the seven hundred things you need to do once you finish your pose, connect with a powerful intention to create a practice that nourishes body, mind and spirit.
Here is a list of mantras you may use that will enliven both the physical body and emotional body to energise, calm, and bring you back to centre. Write these down and place with your yoga mat so that you simply need to choose one (or more) that resonates and hopefully with little effort you can begin your practice with a focus and purpose that will ripple throughout your day.
Instead of focusing on reaching out, pull your energy in.
Physically imagine your muscles tightening around your bones, lending
a support to your body from the inside out.
Search and discover a centeredness you are usually to extended to feel.
I am deeply calm
I inhale healing energy, I exhale softness.
Breathe deeply and rest.
What wants to let go?
I am supported by something greater.
Out of my head, into my heart.
Freedom exists within me.
My foundation is strong so that my body and mind may be flexible.
Strength and softness radiates from my core.
I hope this is received as a gentle nudge toward your mat, rest in the knowledge that you don’t have to look like a yogi on Instagram to be a student, you don’t have to carve out an hour everyday. It’s about the cumulation of micro-moments where we breathe deeply to reset. The one pose we do coupled with a loving and powerful intention. This not only will serve you, but your entire community.