When we’re pregnant, we are encouraged to eat well, take good care of ourselves, rest, and above all, stay in tune with our body and the life that’s growing inside of us. Most of us become attuned to every little kick, roll and karate chop of our babies. We go out of our way to make sure the body that baby is housed in is in top condition.
But once our babies are born, and growing, or when we have two or more kids running around the house, how much time do we spend focusing on our bodies? Isn’t it ironic that many of us take better care of ourselves for those nine months of pregnancy?
Those body signals that we were once so attuned to are still calling out, but how often do we stop and listen?
Take this example: We have a nagging little ache that starts in the low back, and we ignore it in the hopes that it will miraculously disappear. Then we get caught up in our daily routines, the kids’ schedules, the bottomless laundry basket, who’s on pickup, returning that important phone call, and the million other things on our to-do lists. Suddenly we wake up one morning to find we can hardly get out of bed. That nagging backache has turned into screaming back pain.
As moms leading lives that involve directing much of our attention to our charges and family, work,[insert any number of other priorities here], turning our attention inwards often slips to the bottom of our list. So, how can we be sure to listen to the signals of our body before it has to scream to get our attention?
This simple exercise takes very little time, but is a great way to reconnect with your physical self. We spend a lot of time "in our heads," but this helps us stay in tune with our bodies.
Come to either a sitting or standing position. Close your eyes. Take a few moments to breathe. Beginning at the top of the head, take a mental "scan" of every part of the body, right down to the toes. Notice how each part of the body feels, and if you’re holding tension anywhere. Imagine with each exhalation that you’re releasing that tension.
Once you’ve done your body "check-in," take a couple of moments to reflect on what your body is telling you – if your body is tired, do you need to find a way to get more sleep? If you’re holding a lot of tension, do you need to do some gentle stretches each day? If you’re feeling sluggish, do you need to do more physical exercise?
Once you check in with your body on a regular basis, it’s hard to ignore the signals it is sending you. The body check-in also affords us a chance to stop, connect with ourselves and stay in tune with our overall health. And that is always a good thing.
Despite having practiced yoga for many years, I’m constantly surprised at the revelations I have on the mat – both the smaller "a-ha!" moments to the greater "scream-it-from–the-rooftop!" realizations.
Well, I had a revelation today.
I’m not sure where on the spectrum today’s revelation falls. The realization felt like a rediscovery of something I have always known - like a moment of déjà vu or the experience of an unfolding dream in which you seem to know what will happen a split second before it does.
This morning I took a yoga class that focused on strength and balance, neither of which you can achieve effectively without some degree of flexibility. We were working through a series of poses that required stamina and concentration but also the ability to find ease in the movements. At one point in the flow of postures, I was moving with grace and agility, and then through other parts of my practice I felt wobbly, awkward and off-balance.
As I lay down in savasana (final relaxation) I was struck by this – that what I described above regarding my yoga practice is also true about the experience of motherhood. Each requires strength, balance, and flexibility. There are some days or moments that I handle being a mom with grace and ease and other days or moments when I feel awkward, wobbly and completely off-balance.
But the important thing is to just show up, be present, and breathe it in.