A couple of weeks ago a new class showed up on my favourite yoga website (which, incidentally, is the single best way I’ve found to get yoga into my daily life). The class was called: Radiant Mom Yoga, taught by a lovely yoga instructor named Janet Stone.
This was not a prenatal yoga class. Not a “get your body back” postpartum yoga. It was yoga for all moms, at whatever stage of motherhood you happen to be in.
I tried it, of course. And it was divine.
The poses weren’t really any different than a regular class—but the whole approach and philosophy of the class was the thing I found unique. It only lasted 25 minutes (a do-able length for most of us, right?). The emphasis? On taking the time, however brief, to nurture ourselves for a change. On the quest to “find the breath and strength necessary to stay grounded and balanced amidst the glorious chaos of modern motherhood”. And isn’t that what we’re all searching for?
So it got me thinking.
The trouble, of course, is that it’s so easy to lose sight of self-care, and let things slide. Statistics show that we moms don’t do a great job of taking care of ourselves. There’s no shortage of first-person stories and cautionary tales about the reality of this.
So when I find kindred spirits, people who recognize the challenge in being a healthy mummy—and who offer real-life solutions, I like to shout about it.
Here’s the thing: I would love to be able to do a 90 minute yoga class, including a glorious 20 minute Savasana at the end...but that is just not my reality right now. Janet Stone, my new yogi, knows that. When it came time to meditate and relax at the end of the Radiant Mom yoga class, she gave us a guilt-free out: “If you have some time, remain here. If you’re being called back into your duties...slowly come to sitting...”
And I appreciated that. I appreciated the chance to choose a little exercise...over none. A little me-time...over surrendering to overwhelm and the feeling of if-I-can’t-do-it-properly-then-what’s-the-point.
Radiant Mom Yoga had another lesson for me. And it was all about mindfulness. In this class, Janet gently reminded us to let go of the past, the “I used to...”. And also to let go of the future, the “someday I’ll...”. And instead, be present in the now.
I don’t know about you, but living mindfully in the present moment of motherhood is a BIG challenge for me. Some days I can’t stop mourning my old life (Maybe this sounds familiar? Think back...A craving strikes. You feel like going out for dinner. And then...you just go.)
Then there are some days I can’t stop thinking ahead to the time when my little guys will be older and I’ll get some freedom back.
But I know it would be far, far better for me to let all those feelings go. To embrace the chaos, to embrace the current season of life.
Mindfulness is a skill worth cultivating. That’s because we know that mindfulness—living in the present—is a happiness strategy.
A recent Harvard study monitored more than 2000 subjects. Researchers gave each person an iPhone app that tracked them through their day, prompting them periodically to describe what they were doing, what they were thinking about, and their level of happiness. On average, 47% of the time they were thinking about things other than what they were doing at the time. And this correlated with their lowest happiness ratings.
We all do this, to the detriment of our happiness. Research shows us that mindfulness, savouring the present moment, is a habit strongly connected with happiness. And studies have also shown that interventions to increase mindfulness can boost well-being, reduce psychological distress, pain, and physical symptoms. Mindfulness can also be applied to other aspects of healthy living, too—like mindful eating, another key aspect of being a healthy mom.
But cultivating mindfulness brings me back to yoga. Because yoga is a crackerjack way to master mindfulness. Of course, yoga has been shown to give a boatload of other health benefits, too—like a healthier heart, reduced depression, and relief of insomnia, to name a few.
It's important to remember to take care of myself, to breathe, to do yoga, to be mindful...and, instead of struggling against all the challenges of being a mother, to lean into motherhood.
I wish that for all of you, too.