Prior to becoming a Mama I studied and taught yoga to a group of women in the small community that I live. Practicing, learning about and teaching yoga taught me so much about myself and changed the way I looked at the world. I had the time, (and lack of commitments) that I could practice whenever I liked. I could often be found on my mat, working on a new sequence or reading something about yoga.
Having my son early last year (obviously) changed the way I practice. I found myself applying the other branches of yoga to my life rather than just practicing asana (the postures). Which really, is how it's meant to be (there are 8 components to yoga and asana is just one) In many ways becoming a mother took yoga off my mat and applied it more consistently to my life.
Let's start with Pranayama. 'Prana' meaning breath and 'yama' meaning discipline or control. In yoga the breath is considered the life force. Afterall once the breath leaves the body, so too does life. Concentrating on the breath helps to calm the body and relieve stress. Just the act of breathing deeply helps your shoulders drop, and releases the tension in your neck. Have you ever noticed in a stressful situation how your breathing gets short and shallow without your intention? By deliberating slowing down this breath we can immediately lower our stress levels.
Now I don't know about you, but there have been many times in the last 9 months where I have had to draw on pranayama to cope. Let's face it, there is a reason why so many depictions of labour focus on the breathing. Although the short sharp breathing of these depictions was off the mark, we'll give them points for trying. Long slow breathing was the only thing that got me through. (Oh and maybe some animal noises, but I'll leave that story for another day). At one point my midwife actually commented that I should run a marathon because I was able to breathe out for so long.
Pranayama also came into practice when Eamon was a newborn. Those bouts of inexplicable crying are not helped by mama stress as well. There were many 3am sessions where I paced the floor concentrating on my breath and willing the mini-giant to sleep.
More recently I've had a teething bub who suddenly does not want to be separated from me for more than a moment. Controlling my breath is sometimes the only thing stopping me from feeling the need to 'snap' and being in the moment with him instead.
The two main types of pranyama that I practice are:
Ujjayi - known by some as the 'ocean' breath, for the soft sound made by directing the breath to the back of the throat. Whilst it doesn't need to be, this one can be practiced whilst moving through asanas.
Nadi Sodhana - concentrates the breathing in a circular motion and is considered a channel cleaning breath. The process of breathing through each side of the nose individually is used to activate both sides of the brain.
After 9 months I am only just getting back into a regular asana practice again (which feels amazing) but I will always be grateful to the other lessons yoga taught me (and continues to teach me). I wouldn't be able to be the mama I am without her.
How has yoga helped you as a mama?