Yoga Of Motherhood

I'm an Ashtanga Yoga practitioner. I practice traditionally, unrolling my mat in a Mysore room to stretch and sweat and breathe while the sun rises every morning. It's a brilliant style of yoga. I loved it from the moment I took my first led Primary Series in West Hollywood. We pushed all the furniture against the walls of an old photography studio on Melrose Avenue every morning to make space for our yoga practice, and it left me feeling whole. I knew it was for me and dedicated myself daily to the ritual of intense asana practice.

(Photo Of: Emily O'Brien | Photo By: Captured Connections)

That is, until I became a mom.

When I was pregnant I thought I'd be able to wake up every morning while Connor still slept, do my yoga practice like I always had, and then my little sunshine would awaken and we'd go about our day together. I was mistaken. My morning ritual of yoga turned into a ritual of sitting alone with my coffee for maybe ten minutes, thinking and breathing. Or if it had been a late, rough night (which many nights were) I ended up sleeping through alarms and instead of asana, it was snuggles, kisses, and baby giggles that began my mornings.

Basically, my postpartum asana practice was nearly nonexistent. But the real yoga was still there. The poses act as a platform on which to practice the deeper lessons of yoga, but asana is only the tip of the yogic iceberg. To practice yoga is to practice calming the mind. Physical poses are only one approach. In Ashtanga yoga we call it Seventh Series - the yoga of relationships, or in my current life situation, of motherhood. And it's considered the hardest of them all.

I believe becoming a mother taught me what my regular practice never could, but maybe was trying to. I realize now that I had many attachments to my practice; the way it made me feel physically and mentally was profound for me, but looking back, I was obsessing over the poses. It was easy to twist and bend and balance on my mat, but I wasn't integrating the deeper lessons as much as I could have. By being pulled away from my asana practice and into the threshold of caring for a tiny helpless human 24/7, I found the true essence of yoga. Very suddenly, my only practice was to be present with him and to let go of all other expectations. In this way, he has been the best yoga teacher I've ever had the pleasure of experiencing.

Yoga is about presence. To be a yogi is to engage fully in the here and now, whatever truth the moment may hold. My new practice was simply to keep my mind clear and calm so I could give my baby the care he deserved. I had to set aside my own agenda and surrender. This proved difficult, and still does some days, but I accepted the fact that my personal time needed to be dedicated to my son and his needs. I continued to practice finding serenity amidst the sleepless nights, crying fits, dirty diapers, and unending pile of dishes. That is yoga.

Motherhood holds all the teachings of yoga. It is a yoga practice in and of itself. The patience and selflessness it takes to be a good mother isn't rivaled. For me, it has been the ultimate test on my yogic path, and I admittedly have stumbled much of the way. But it is a practice. What was impossible one day is effortless the next, and then a new challenge arises to keep me on my toes. I am never finished.

As Connor has gotten older, I've been able to find more freedom. I find time to practice just about every day. I can put him down on his belly in front of my mat and move. The length of practice isn't so important anymore, I'm grateful for what I can get. I know my asana practice gives me strength and clarity to be a better mom, and I cherish that time dearly. But most importantly, I cherish my son, and the powerful lessons he has taught me through the yoga practice of motherhood.

*Follow Emily on Instagram: @Emily.Obrien Stay tuned into our blog for more stories and content!

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