Tag Archives: parenting

Thank goodness for yoga

I had an epiphany during yoga practice on Tuesday night. I’ve been silently chastising myself for the fact that I’m struggling with my vinyasa practice lately. I’ve been telling myself that I’m not getting to enough classes, not consistent enough in my practice, I’m doing too many restorative classes (as if there is such a thing as too much!) instead of vinyasa classes, and my strength and stamina have deteriorated as a result, which is bad. I’ve been mentally beating myself up, for undoing all the good that I’d achieved with my practice in the first half of 2014. I had come so far, and I feel like I’m back at the beginning. I’m letting myself down, being slack, not being disciplined enough. My ego has been running rampant, telling me stories of how my teachers have no doubt noticed the deterioration in my practice, that they wouldn’t think very highly of me, and that it’s a visible sign to others that I haven’t got it all together. I even felt the pang of jealousy when I heard a teacher compliment another student on his beautiful practice. I was the one receiving those comments six months ago.

Then, on Tuesday, it suddenly dawned on me during the middle of practice – it doesn’t matter.

Yoga is not an ideal to be achieved. It is not a spectator sport. It’s not about progression.

Yoga is about the here and now. It is the union of mind and body. I have been missing this point for months.

My new mantra, which has brought me so much peace in the past few weeks, applies to my yoga journey:

Surrender.
I am exactly where I am supposed to be, and my journey gives me everything I need to learn and grow. I trust the entire process. The Universe delivers everything I ask for, and more.

So, it doesn’t matter. The deterioration of my strength and stamina is simply part of my journey, part of the process. I don’t need to berate myself for it. It isn’t bad, it just is what it is.

Of course, I’d like to improve my practice and regain my lost yoga fitness, even surpass it. But instead of striving for progression, adding love to this equation means that the outcome is irrelevant. Even if I never progress my practice from where it is today, it will continue to serve me well. I am nourished by my yoga, it teaches me stillness and presence. For that, I am grateful.


BRINGING MY YOGA PRACTICE INTO MY DAILY LIFE

I mentally beat myself up for all kinds of things on a daily basis. I’ve learnt that this habit is destructive and useless, but it is so ingrained that it has been a tough one to break.

For the purposes of shedding light on this struggle, I wrote a list of everything I could think of for which I berate myself. When I got to #37 without the end anywhere in sight, I decided I’d better not continue down that dark and depressing hole. It was obvious that, as countless people have told me over and over again for many years, I am very hard on myself. The vitriol that I brutally douse myself with repeatedly throughout every single day, is so toxic, cruel and ruthless that I would never even contemplate inflicting it on any other living creature. And yet, for me, it is the every day, every hour, every minute norm. I suspect that I am not the only one with this horrendous habit.

Why we think it is ok to treat ourselves in a manner that we would never treat another living creature is beyond me. Perhaps it’s a psychological issue that someone knowledgeable could explain, but I’m at a point where I don’t care about reasons any more. I just care about solutions.

In the wider scheme of the Universe, the things that I berate myself for are not inherently bad, just as they are not good. They are what they are. The “badness” is something I attribute to the thing in my mind. The goals I’ve failed to achieve, the ideals I fail to live up to, the skills I am deficient in, the struggles I face, the mistakes I make, the dreams I haven’t made manifest … they’re all essentially meaningless. None of it matters. And yet, I am so emotionally attached to every single one of them, it’s hard to believe that they don’t matter.

Let me stop talking figuratively, and give you a specific example to illustrate exactly what I mean. My biggest “bashing” item on the list at present, is how I feel about my experience of motherhood. Oftentimes, since I gave birth to my second baby, I’ve hated motherhood. I LOVE my precious babies, but I hate motherhood, because it is so damn hard, frustrating, monotonous, relentless, overwhelming, all consuming, and heart breaking. I feel as though I hadn’t fully established who I was pre-kids, let alone now that I feel so lost in motherhood. Of course, there are days scattered amongst the endless months where motherhood feels peachy. I also realise that “hate” is a very strong word to use about this period of my life, especially when I also associate this time with the miracle and beauty of my children and the intense love that I have for them. Let’s put it down to hormones (can I still blame them 3 years post-partum??), a tendency to dramatics, and laziness with accurately describing my feelings, but hate is just the word that slips out of my mouth.

So, I mentally flog myself for feeling these feelings. I know I am privileged to experience motherhood. I know I chose this path. I am so grateful to have been given the role of mothering these two precious souls. I know. I even know that my attitude about this, quite frankly, sucks. But, as so many before me have said, although I was told it was hard, I never anticipated the pain that motherhood would bring. I tell myself I am a bad person for feeling this way, for not loving and cherishing motherhood. I tell myself that these feelings must be damaging my children. I feel so much guilt, I feel shame, I feel unworthy as a mother for not yet having found a way to make motherhood feel great. I’ve made my feelings bad, and I’m convinced of their “badness”.

So, how can I bring my yoga practice to this part of my life?

Just as yoga is not an ideal to be achieved, neither is motherhood. There is no perfect way that motherhood is meant to be experienced that I should be striving to live up to. It simply is what it is. It’s a word used to describe an experience that I currently find myself engulfed in, that doesn’t need to be experienced in a prescribed way. It doesn’t matter if I like it or hate it. That doesn’t make me a good or bad mother. It doesn’t diminish the love I have for my children. Motherhood is not who I am. It’s a word to describe something I’m experiencing.

My yoga practice brings me to the present. It puts me in the here and now. If I do that in my motherhood experience, I can be present with my kids. I can put the frustrations and the overwhelm into perspective. I can keep calm amongst the storm.

If I bring yoga to my motherhood, it doesn’t matter if I’m hating it. It’s part of my journey, part of the process. If I continue to hate it, that’s meaningless. If I add self love and acceptance for my feelings of hating motherhood, instead of berating myself, I might actually just hate it a little less, and find the space to love some more, to accept the difficulties, and find more joy in being with my kids. But the outcome is irrelevant, and not what I need to focus on.

So now I’m beginning to understand what my teachers are talking about at the end of class, when they say to take your yoga practice into your life. I think that if there was less “mental bashing”, and more presence and love in my life, miracles really could happen. I can walk my path knowing that I’m simply here, and I love, and that is enough.

xx


*Image credit: Yoga class, by Augusto Mia Battaglia. Under licence.

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Prioritising You – How It’s Done in the Wild

I read a blogpost by Pinky McKay recently that described an analogy for the importance of prioritising self-care as a mother (or parent) that was even more powerful for me than the oxygen mask analogy that I read about so often. It described a wildlife documentary in which a lioness and her cub hadn’t eaten in two days, and the situation was becoming critical. When the lioness finally achieved a kill, she ate the whole lot herself, leaving none for her starving cub. The meal gave her the energy and strength to continue hunting, and she eventually made a larger kill, which she shared with her cub.

The lioness instinctually “knows” the vital importance and priority of self-care in her role as a mother. Her instincts instructed her to feed herself first for a crucial reason: if she had shared or given the food to her cub, she wouldn’t have had the energy or strength to make another kill, and consequently both she and her cub would have perished from starvation. She had to take care of her own needs first, to ensure the survival of her cub.

This story cuts deep. Since becoming a mum, it’s felt as though my every need comes second (or third, or fourth) to those of my kids. In the early weeks and months, they were so utterly dependent for everything, and the patterns were quickly formed: meet the incessant needs of my baby, and then if there is any “left over time” when they’re finally sleeping (even if attached to me whilst doing so!), I can quickly slot in meeting my own needs before they wake again and the cycle repeats. This worked for the first few days, when I was  high on a post-birth hormone cocktail mixed with the excitement of my newly birthed baby, but it wasn’t sustainable. Yet, being the stubborn soul that I am, I have persisted with this habit, to some degree, for close to five years. Any wonder I feel exhausted, burnt out, resentful, disengaged, often sick, and I fantasise about running away on a regular basis.

In considering the lioness analogy, despite understanding it on an intellectual level,  my automatic and immediate response is still that I would give that first “small kill” to my kids – it’s my responsibility to care for them first and foremost, after all. After a little more careful consideration, I might contemplate the idea of sharing it with them. It’s not until I stop to consider the longer term consequences, that I feel a slight guilt-inducing tug towards making the choice to “feed myself” first. Do I really want us all to eventually “starve”? Of course not! Getting real about it requires me to really think through what this means. Neglecting my needs is causing me exhaustion, burnout, resentfulness, disengagement, illness, and fantasising about abandonment, whilst the kids immediate needs are being met. Long term, this will lead to (and is already heading towards) more serious illness, disconnection and broken relationships, and an inability to parent my children well and guide them towards living happy and healthy lives. This is clearly NOT what I want for myself or my family. At this point in the analysis, the appropriate action is glaringly obvious – meeting my needs MUST be prioritised when caring for my family.

I see this pattern in so many mums I know. Why is it that this notion of unsustainable self-sacrifice is so ingrained in so many of us as mothers? I think that’s perhaps another rabbit hole to be explored elsewhere, but one thing is crystal clear: at the end of the day, it serves no one.

I’ll keep the lioness in my mind as I go about life this week, making my daily choices in caring for myself and my family. Following from my last post, I’m pleased to report that I’m on track with my daily  meditation and adequate sleep. I haven’t been perfect – life knows how to bring up great excuses to avoid your commitments – but I’ve been mindful, and making better choices more often than not. I’ll remember the lioness as I continue.

How about you – how do you feel about the lioness and her choices? Do you prioritise yourself, or are you in denial of the critical priority of self-care? Why do you think that is? What is one small action you can take towards prioritising self-care? I’d love for you to share your thoughts in the comments section below.


Image credit: Female lion on the prowl, by John Rawlinson.  Used under license.

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