By Kate Dawkins
When I was a child, my mother used to take me to yoga classes and I have continued to practice throughout my adult life however it wasn’t until I was pregnant with my son that I became truly receptive to what yoga had to offer, beyond asana.
Here are a few of my discoveries.
Motherhood was not what I expected, in so many ways. My first year with my son Bodhi has been a process of undoing expectation, of learning to be truly present and accepting the twists of each day. As it turns out these are also yogic practices!
It all started with a prenatal yoga class when I was about six months pregnant: I sat on my yoga mat feeling heavy, flat and grumpy. The previous day I had felt amazing and during the sharing circle I told everyone of my energized, positive, wonderfulness. So when it came to my turn to share again, it seemed bit awkward telling everyone how utterly awful I now felt, but then I figured every day is different and if I was going to cope with today, I had to release my expectation of what it should be. My teacher commented this was a great thing to recognize and it would help me through early motherhood.
“Everyday is different…” I said it over in my mind a few times and now it has become a mantra of sorts for me. I like it because it sounds so totally obvious, but it reminds me to unexpect, and it’s often the most simple things that can really surprise us; we think we understand because we are intellectually familiar with the concept, but there is a deeper level of knowing to reach if only we could get out of our own way.
So, I accepted my heaviness and instead of wrestling with myself over why I didn’t feel good, I just focused on my breath and practiced yoga. By the end of class I felt amazing. Something changed and I wasn’t even ‘trying’. Everything I needed was right here, right now and yoga helped me access that.
Moving with (and through) intense feelings
Parenthood has been a haze of highest highs and lowest lows and I’ve come to see that half the battle in dealing with frequent unpleasant circumstances (long sleepless nights, constant crying, spew everywhere) is in releasing the feelings I hold towards them (which is not easy because first you have to identify the feeling and often there’s a zoo of them to trawl through!) If a situation defied my expectations, crushing my wish for what ‘should’ be, I felt defeated; I was too easily swallowed up by emotion. But, as I began to separate the inner battle with my feelings from the situation itself I found I had more energy to direct towards acceptance or finding solutions. Once I accepted the circumstances, solutions would often emerge without me trying, and so things began to get more manageable.
Some days I spent hours walking with Bodhi in the carrier because it was the only way to get him to stop crying (he cried a LOT) and fall asleep. My mind fought at the injustice; ‘why wouldn’t he just sleep in his cot so I can nap too’ or ‘why wont he go in his pram so I can go out for coffee with adults’. I found so many reasons to not like the situation, there were so many things I’d rather be doing, but the only way out was to go head first in to it, to be cool with it and get on with the walk, because getting out in to the sun and fresh air is actually pretty nice. The walks were exercise, the sun gave me vitamin D and I could listen to music or podcasts. So by allowing things to be as they are, by not fixating on a wish for something else I begin to see things more clearly.
The Yoga of Housework
I’ve been a ‘stay at home’ mum for the past year, while also completing my yoga teacher training at Sukha Mukha and starting a yoga business. So you can guess what I prefer to do in my spare time… yes, YOGA! But the cleaning and cooking always calls. The ordered person in me doesn’t mind a good cleaning session and cooking nourishing food is very important to me, so I find myself doing pretty well in my role at home, however the work is very repetitive and dull, and no matter how on top of it I am, the clean and tidy never lasts more than a moment before it’s chaos again.
I have often found myself powering through the housework, with tense shoulders and shallow breath, my sympathetic nervous system wired for escape, as I rush to get it done so I can have time for myself. It is not pleasant and it certainly doesn’t make the cleaning go any faster. Now that I’ve noticed myself doing this, I try to turn the chores into a mindfulness practice: deep slow equal breath, sensing and appreciating the warm washing water on my hands, moving with breath in a kind of dance around the house, efficiently and mindfully. It totally transforms the chores!
Ahmisa and the midday bath
Ahimsa is the first of the Yamas, which are a blue print for right and ethical living outlined on the 8 limbed yogic path. Ahimsa translates to non-violence, but it’s more than the absence of harm, it’s also about practicing kindness, towards others, the planet and ourselves.
If I’m going to be the mother I want to be: present, kind, loving, patient, I need to create moments of nurturing myself each day. Yoga is usually my answer—reading from yogic texts, practicing asana or meditation whenever I can grab the time, but the midday bath was an interesting one. I thought about it long before I did it. Is it just me, or does a midday bath sound really indulgent? Out of guilt I told myself I would have just 15min in the tub, but it seemed so hard to find the time! Time continued to elude me because it wasn’t the problem; it was a lack of the headspace and commitment to do it. It was very revealing and quite surprising to me how resistant I was to my bath plan because I LOVE BATHS and I thought I did a pretty good job of looking after myself. Finally, I named last Wednesday “Bath Day”. I committed to doing it, no matter what, and yet, as soon as Bodhi went to sleep I chose to slog through washing up first, if he had woken early I would have missed the opportunity again, but luckily he slept for a good hour and the bath finally happened. And it was REALLY NICE! I slathered my dry wintery skin in coconut oil, lit candles, played relaxing music and sunk into the warm water. BLISS!
I realized this was the first bath I have had (alone) since my labour day, and I have a thirteen month old!! Experiences in self nurturing must continue!
The littlest Guru
Bodhi is the ultimate teacher, he requires my patience as I sing (chant) him to sleep, sometimes endlessly; my presence as we play and explore together; my acceptance as he throws quinoa all over the floor; my love as he experiments with his new passion for ‘gardening’.
As Bodhi grows into a bright and confident little being I am continually becoming a more joyful, confident mother. I still feel frustrated and exhausted sometimes but the feelings don’t linger like the used to. All I need to do is watch Bodhi for a moment and see how quickly he releases his feelings from what was happening only a few moments ago. He is the ultimate teacher, my littlest guru and he’s not even trying.
Kate Dawkins is a Sukha Mukha 200HR Teacher Training Graduate and runs a boutique yoga studio on Sydney’s lower north shore called Shambhala House of Yoga. She is currently running a crowdfunding campaign to kick off Yoga for Change a 5 Day Yoga Challenge for changemakers to help them be the change they wish to see in the world. Connect with Kate on Twitter: @k8alexandra.