The end of July marked my one year anniversary of having a consistent yoga practice. I want to start this post by saying I am so thankful for all the teachers I’ve had over the past year, especially the ones with whom I got to work regularly enough that they knew how to push my practice forward and encourage me every step of the way.
I was going to yoga quite a bit before getting pregnant with my daughter, but that immediately stopped with how sick I became during that pregnancy. After my post partum rest period, I tried a Groupon here and there but I really decided to commit to self-care through a regular yoga practice late last summer. So I wanted to write a little bit about the progress I’ve made in the past year and a few of the things I’ve learned along the way:Last August my anxiety was out of control. One of the reasons we decided to invest the money into a studio when our budget was so tight is because we figured it cost less than therapy and much less than if I had a mental breakdown and had to put the kids in the care of someone else (funny to imagine now, but a kind of legitimate concern a year ago. I was not in a good place…) All I was hoping for was the little bit of relaxation and tension relief I knew came with breathing through the yoga postures. What I got was so much more.
Before we dive in, here’s a little snapshot of progress not perfection- taken on the beach about one year apart:
The difference might seem small, but I look at these images and see some really beautiful progress…
But let’s start back at a year ago… Just finding time for “me” again, time when I wasn’t being asked for
something or needing to split my attention between what I was doing and the safety and well being of two tiny humans has been a game changer. I felt extremely guilty the first few months whenever I was away from my family. Like I was slacking at my “mom job” since I was supposed to be “on” twenty-four hours a day. What I’ve found is the age-old advice about putting on your own oxygen mask first or not pouring from an empty cup doesn’t just apply to physical needs, but emotional and mental ones as well. I kind of figured if I took a shower and fed myself then I was winning… but now I know that I’m a much better mom when I’m taking care of myself as a whole person. There’s no more proof of this than the time I was having a bad day and my son said to me, “Mommy, I think maybe you need to go to yoga and then talk to Jesus so you can be happy again” Yoga and Jesus. Good advice, son. The meditation time in savasana at the end of each class has been huge in helping not only my anxiety but also my focus, my sense of gratitude, and transferring that same sort of focus to my prayer life. Having this outlet has made me a better mom and it’s been so sweet to do some yoga with my son to help him manage some big feelings, and to see my daughter cheer me on while I practice. I’m still learning to take the practice of savasana from my mat into life in other ways though… to acknowledge the hard work I’ve put into a day and leave that work as I take time to let it sink in and to REST. I struggle with rest and I’ve been struggling with sleep issues and a big part of the struggle is that I have trouble letting the day go so I can rest. I’m notorious for adding things to my to-do list at 1 am or wondering the answer to a question that feels like it just can’t wait until morning. But I’m working on changing that and the practice of savasana is helping.
So, my primary reason for going to yoga was for my mind- which I know is maybe not the norm. Most people think working out is to get a certain type of body or to reach set physical goals. I have set some physical goals recently as well, but to be honest, I have spent most of my life trying to ignore my body, or that I even had a body. Yoga has helped me find that I enjoy surprising myself. I find awe and appreciation for what my body can do instead of trying to ignore it and THT is something I definitely want to model for my kids.
By December, I felt ready to commit to a whole year of membership at my yoga studio. I learned quickly thereafter that I would need to learn to deal with bumps in the road. The day I planned to sign up for a whole year it was announced that the studio was being taken over by another yoga studio but I was promised they would honor any memberships and that I should still sign up. I did, but a lot of changes happened after. Teachers changed, but some of the instructors I practiced with most were staying and I was excited to see what I could learn from some of the new people. Then, in January, I injured myself and had to change what kind of classes I attended while I let my tendon recover. I am thankful for the instructors that helped me make modifications and who very firmly told me it was more important to slow down and recover and take care of myself than to follow my tendency to push through pain and ignore what my body was telling me. I was so bummed about the injury at first, but it turned out that forcing myself to go to so many hang classes would give me the strength I needed to make a leap forward in my flow practice. I’m also grateful in retrospect as the studio was shut down without any warning in May, and I have not been able to attend a hang class since then (though I am hoping schedules change so that I can take one once in a while at another location.) With the studio closing down and the only way the company agreed to honor my year membership was with an offer to practice at their other location that currently doesn’t classes when my schedule allows me to practice, I realized I needed to come up with something else in the meantime. We couldn’t afford to go to another studio since we’d already paid a year’s worth of studio dues and suddenly I became incredibly thankful for the option of joining a gym at a rate we could manage to budget for at least for the summer. Lots of bumps in the road and lots of challenges but I kept deciding to say yes to whatever
helped me keep practicing. Teachers move, studios close, crazy things happen and life changes fast, but in the end I’ve learned that I am responsible for my practice, so I’m doing everything I can to keep growing so a year from now I can continue to surprise myself with what I’ve learned and what has changed. I am hoping in a year I will be closer to my current challenge poses; but more importantly I am hoping that I can look back and see how I’ve cultivated more gratitude, better alignment, specific intention, more strength, and that I express myself and my joy more fully both on the mat and off.A few other random thoughts about things I’ve learned on my mat
*I can do hard things. This is a saying I heard on a podcast about teaching kids resilience, and now I use it often. In some ways, I don’t think I would have been ready for some of the progress I’ve made in the past year if I hadn’t already done the really hard work of having two babies. I went into labor the first time repeating “I can’t do this” but my body knew better and I DID do it. And then I did it again. And so I’m curious about what else it might be able to do… twist a little further? Go upside down? Get a little stronger? I guess that’s another thing I’ve learned- There’s magic in becoming curious instead of judgmental- this especially applies to my body and what it can, can’t, or might be able to do, but it also applies to so many other things! It’s an attitude that had definitely effected my work as a creative artist and as a parent. It’s the attitude that got me to try running a little further and a little harder. It’s the attitude that I’m holding with me as I transition through so many things in the next month.
*Some days yes and some days no. This is specifically related to balance poses- some days I’m shocked by how grounded I feel and other days the simplest of these poses throw me off, but it relates to other things too. If I’ve trained hard running or doing an intense gym class the day before, then sometimes a certain pose feels off to me and I can’t go as deep or I need more time to get into it. Some days I do every flow and other days I hang out in down dog or child’s pose for a few sets. Some days I can chug a cup of coffee during nap time/quiet time and bake and clean and some days I need to sit down and be still. Some days yes and some days no. And both are OK.
I wanted to finish the post with these two pictures- the first is a landmark moment in may practice- I’ve had a tenuous relationship with headstand, something I worked really hard to learn, lost temporarily, and then got back again. Now, it feels wonderful to hang out there on an almost daily basis. It was a huge yoga goal. The second picture is me working on and, for the moment, totally failing at another yoga goal- handstand. I’m going to keep working. I don’t know if I’ll have it by next year, but I do know I’ll be closer, and I do know that I want to remember the hard, sometimes messy work of getting there.