Back in 2017, I wrote a post about home practice and growth. Two yoga trainings, a pregnancy, and baby later, I can honestly say my home practice has helped me more mentally than physically. My body ached from carrying a child in my womb for nine months and from my long and strenuous labor. Delivering a baby is truly one of humanity’s most amazing physical feats. I listened to the advice of my midwife and rested when we got home, but my body was craving movement. I did not know what exactly to do for it. I did know that I could start simple. I could start by listening. I could start by breathing. After a few days, I went for a short, slow walk with my daughter in a carrier and my husband walking the dog. My mood elevated as I breathed the crisp, late fall air with my new family. I later attempted a downward facing dog. I could almost hear my muscles sigh with relief as I started to gently move again. One week after having my daughter, I rolled out my mat.
Needless to say, my home practice these last few months has been in transition. My life has been in transition. What used to be a peaceful practice between me, my mat, and usually my coffee has changed to a patient practice between me, my mat, my dog, and my baby—who if awake is wiggling, cooing, and getting very close to rolling over. But if I time it right and she is napping, I will sometimes get fifteen, forty, even sixty minutes of solo yoga. Some days I creep out of bed in the wee hours of the morning while she is still sleeping and practice until she starts to stir. I never know how much time I will have to practice. However long it is, I am grateful to have a practice. I used to be upset if I couldn’t get “enough” yoga in. If it wasn’t a “full practice” it didn’t count. I had to do so many chaturangas. So many minutes of meditation. Now, I wonder what that even meant. Any practice is enough. Any yoga is fulfilling if done with the right intention.
Motherhood is a meditation, but it also is the highest form of yoga I have yet to experience. I really have learned to turn in, let go of my ego, and surrender to something greater than myself. In yoga it is called ishvara pranidhana or surrender to the divine. It was amazing to feel my body heal and return to its non-pregnancy state. It was as if my body and soul knew what to do. I just needed to stepped aside and let it happen. At the beginning of my postpartum journey, I wanted it to change quicker. My ego wanted my early 20s dancer body and clothes to fit again. Wanted my mind to understand the whole new task of taking care of a helpless baby who did not come with a user manual. Other days, I moved in awe as this temple not only created a full fledged human, but also nourishes the tiny human everyday through breastfeeding. What is more divine than that? Why rush the process? Patiently, my body shifted back to its center and relearned to be a house for just one soul. Slowly, my muscles reawakened. In some ways I feel stronger. In other ways I am softer, gentler. Eventually, my yoga started to resemble the practice I had grown to rely on, but more balanced and full.
I rely on my practice physically and even more so mentally. Those five or forty minutes a day make me a better mother. I am able to find gratitude for the moments with an infant that seem to span a lifetime. When it is only just the morning and my child has been crying for what seems like forever. It has turned into an embodied prayer. My favorite part of my yoga practice are the sun salutations. I try to practice 12 Sun Salutation A when I have time and energy. Each salutation I either say a prayer of gratitude “I am grateful for my family” or an affirmation “I am patient and positive.” Sometimes I jump with vigor. Other days I move slowly with tenderness. And on particularly trying days, I go through my prayers in whatever position I can manage following my breath as my only movement. Ella Wheeler Wilcox sums it up nicely in her poem The Things That Count.
Now, dear, it isn’t the bold things,
Great deeds of valour and might,
That count the most in the summing up of life at the end of the day.
But it is the doing of old things,
Small acts that are just and right;
And doing them over and over again, no matter what others say;
In smiling at fate, when you want to cry, and in keeping at work when
you want to play—
Dear, those are the things that count.
And, dear, it isn’t the new ways
Where the wonder-seekers crowd
That lead us into the land of content, or help us to find our own.
But it is keeping to true ways,
Though the music is not so loud,
And there may be many a shadowed spot where we journey along
In flinging a prayer at the face of fear, and in changing into a song a
Dear, these are the things that count.
My dear, it isn’t the loud part
Of creeds that are pleasing to God,
Not the chant of a prayer, or the hum of a hymn, or a jubilant shout or
But it is the beautiful proud part
Of walking with feet faith-shod;
And in loving, loving, loving through all, no matter how things go
In trusting ever, though dark the day, and in keeping your hope when
the way seems long—
Dear, these are the things that count.
Yoga practice isn’t about the flashy moves, the amount of time spent, or how it looks. It isn’t about conquering that handstand or fitting back into my flashy red pants. It is about rolling out my mat or just laying down on the floor. Taking a moment to simply lean in. To listen. To breathe. To be alive in my body. To show up day after day. It is about loving, loving through it all. Through the late nights. The fussy infant stages. The ever fluctuating mother’s body. Finding ways to love myself. All my light parts. All my shadows. To love others. To love the world. It is not always easy. It is always worth it. Whatever the practice looks like, it always counts.
Love and light,