The first time I took a yoga class after my daughter was born, the experience was fraught with anxiety. She was only a couple of months old, so I chose a one-hour noon class (short and sweet, and not during critical I-need-mama evening time), and I asked a trusted friend to babysit. My friend stayed within walking distance of the studio, and sat cooing at my baby while I took class. Had I looked out the yoga-room window, I probably could have seen them—they were that nearby. Still, I kept my cell phone on my mat (explaining to the teacher that I was a new mom, of course), and then proceeded to obsessively worry through every moment of the practice, including the will-it-ever-end savasana. It was neither easy, nor was it particularly pleasant. I’m quite positive I wasn’t taking full and deep breaths in my down-dogs. Being away from my daughter was nerve-wracking that first time, but it made the second time, and then the third and fourth, easier. And while I wouldn’t say that I felt my “well renew” with that first anxious yoga class, making a conscious habit to take time for myself absolutely made the first year of motherhood easier overall.
My daughter will be two in a couple of months, but still today choosing to go to a class and leave her with childcare or with my partner is neither easy nor inexpensive. (I have so much gratitude for—and recognize the privilege in—having these options.) So mamas, if you have that chance, too—a chance to get away and have an hour or so on your mat, where someone else is in charge and your job is to listen to your body, respect its needs and breathe—this is my reminder to you to take it. Even when we have childcare and support and the financial means to care for ourselves, stepping away from our children can be hard. (My partner calls me out on this every time I start dragging my feet getting out of the house and away from my kiddo: “Oh look, baby S, mommy has a monkey on her back!”)
Our blog offers many sequences, tips, and poses for a successful home practice, whether you’re pregnant or a new mom. But getting to a class gives you something a home practice doesn’t: a chance to have time to yourself, caring for yourself, without anyone needing anything from you. That cannot be underestimated. Getting time to do the things that make you feel whole offers you the reminder that being a mom is just one aspect (albeit an important one) of who you are.
The stereotype of the martyred mother is not one I embrace. I cringe a little when I see motherhood celebratorily portrayed as the greatest sacrifice. That’s not to say that I don’t sacrifice a great deal for my daughter: all mothers do. It IS a requisite part of parenting. We give up a lot to care for these adorable, silly little creatures who will grow way too quickly into autonomous little people. But there is a difference between accepting that motherhood requires sacrifice and celebrating that fact—embracing it and seeing it as a mark of “true” motherhood. Heck no. My true motherhood comes when I am an authentic, embodied, full-of-life person who prioritizes myself and my offspring—in that order.
The most recent time I went to a yoga class, I did so after a long run, making for an indulgent Saturday morning all to myself. The class was the perfect mix of challenging and sweet, and I loved exploring playful poses I don’t often do on my own. Savasana was meditative and comforting, and when we made it to “Namaste,” I realized that I had not—even once—thought about my daughter during the practice.
(New mamas, looking for ways to rebuild strength and have some time for yourself? Join us on Saturday, April 15 at 1:00 PM for Postnatal Reset at Carrboro Yoga Company! You can register here!)