The 8 Limbs of Yoga in Motherhood: The Mama Niyamas

As we continue to climb through the 8 Limbs of Yoga in Motherhood, we move on from the first limb, the Mama Yamas, to the second limb, the Mama Niyamas. While the Mama Yamas focus on motherhood’s social guidelines and ethical practices, the Mama Niyamas hone in on personal behavior and observances. They speak directly to self-discipline and the daily practices of motherhood.

Again, we have 5, so let’s jump right in…

  1. Saucha: cleanliness, purification. With motherhood comes a whole new definition of cleanliness. On one hand, we want to feed our baby the cleanest food, use the purest detergents and soaps to wash their clothes, keep germs and dirt away from them. But on the other hand, keeping a clean house becomes more challenging, finding time to cook meals from scratch can seem impossible, clutter seems to pile up in all corners. The things we welcomed into our lives to purify our own bodies and minds (massages, meditation, sleep, exercise), even these are bumped low on the priority list. The practices and standards we had before motherhood are challenged in every way once we take on this new role in life. But it is so important, both for our families and ourselves, that we incorporate Saucha into our daily lives. We must consider how our daily practices are affecting our family. Is the home clean (not spotless of course!) so that it’s a safe and healthy environment for our children? Are we eating healthy food that will nourish and fuel our bodies? Are we minimizing pesticides and parabens and unhealthy, unnatural additives? Find what is important to you and your family. Figure out what your standards are and where your boundaries lie.
  2. Santosha: contentment. This one sounds so easy, and it can be. But it can also be hard. Before we were mothers, we had goals. We had dreams and aspirations. And then we became mothers and our priorities may have shifted. Our goals may have taken a back seat, perhaps temporarily. Our dreams and aspirations stood to the side while we battled sleepless nights and struggled to find the time to eat a proper meal, ideally sitting down but usually not. And this reality can be jarring and it can be hard. Or maybe we had an idea of how motherhood would roll out. We saw ourselves moving through it with ease and grace, but the reality was something less flowery. Parts of ourselves are put on hold as we navigate this journey. And the journey in itself comes with highs and lows, often times unexpected ones. But this is where Santosha comes in. Santosha is the daily practice of reminding yourself that you are enough, that you are not lacking, that you don’t need to be someone else. It’s embracing contentment and gratitude and turning away from resentment and jealousy. Instead of looking at other mothers and feeling inadequate, Santosha welcomes in presence and peace with your own motherhood journey.
  3. Tapas: discipline. Ah yes, discipline! Just as Santosha teaches us to seek contentment in the present moment in motherhood, Tapas asks us to find the discipline to move towards our goals. Who are we and who are we becoming? What are we creating and how are we building? It often seems that motherhood leaves little time for this, but the opportunities are there. We must have the discipline to find them and the discipline to pursue them. So whether this pertains to goals you are pursing for your family or goals you are pursuing for yourself, it comes down to discipline. Discipline isn’t easy, but it is so important.
  4. Svadhyaya: self-study. The glory of self-study. It’s scary. It’s raw and it’s so revelatory. We find the most truth when we take the time to truly study ourselves in this motherhood journey. How are we responding and how are we reacting to the circumstances of our day? And is this aligned with the intentions we carry into motherhood? It is so easy to stray and to be distracted from the morals and ideals we believe are so important. Motherhood gets busy and messy and stressful. But each day, at the end of the day, we have the chance to revisit our choices and contemplate our actions as mothers. This is self-study and it does not always come easy, but it is very important.
  5. Isvarapranidhana: self-surrender to a higher being or purpose. This one is so personal, it’s so specific to you. But there’s a constant, there’s something we have in common here: We must have courage. We must be brave and understand that there are pieces that are out of our control, and that is ok. In fact, there’s a lot of power and beauty behind this, but it can be hard to embrace. The power comes when we are able to release the idea that we must have complete control, when we are able to lift up our arms and let go of the need to own it all. Motherhood is the epitome of this. We bring life into the world, we nourish and cherish it, and then we watch it go off and become its own glorious thing. It is surrender at its highest point. So let go mama, let go.

How do the Mama Niyamas speak to your motherhood journey and how can this framework encourage you to approach motherhood more consciously? Where is there room to grow and to expand as a mother? Stay tuned for more...

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