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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The 8 Limbs of Yoga in Motherhood: The Mama Yamas

As we begin our journey into the 8 Limbs of Yoga in Motherhood, we have to start at the beginning, the foundation, the first limb, the Yamas. The what? Yes, the Yamas, or what I call: The Mama Yamas.

The Mama Yamas are all about your integrity, your social guidelines, your ethical practices in motherhood.The Mama Yamas show up in your day before you even step on the mat. They sit with you while you move through your practice. And they leave the mat with you, journeying through the rest of your day right by your side. They are real and raw and bring you back to the basic fundamentals of humanity, the heart of who we are and how we navigate this life as mothers.

There are 5 of them, so grab a cup of tea (or perhaps that 9th cup of coffee if your baby didn’t sleep last night) and let’s get started…

  1. Ahimsa: non-harming. There are obvious ways that this applies to motherhood: not harming your child and providing all of the amazing care and compassion and love that you’re capable of giving your little one. But non-harming is bigger than this in motherhood. As mothers, as women, we are hardest on ourselves. We are the first to be deprived of something so that we can provide for those we love. And now, with a little baby asking for every ounce of our energy, we often find ourselves deprived. So Ahimsa also means non-harming towards ourselves, because we can only love our best when we are at our best. So go easy on yourself. Ask for help. Take a nap while someone watches your baby. Allow friends and family to cook for you. Tell yourself that it’s ok if your house isn’t spotless. You may find throw-up in your hair. That’s ok. And give your body some love. It may not look or act like it did before you were pregnant, but this amazing body of yours has grown a human being and is now supporting that life. That’s remarkable and deserves love. It’s not about lowering your standards in any way, it’s about finding a healthy balance in life as it is right now.
  2. Satya: non-lying. I believe the beauty of Satya in motherhood relates to our honesty with ourselves and the decisions we are making every day. It’s about living a life aligned with your values, one where you are completely honest in thought, speech and action. You say things are fine. Are they? Or do you actually need to ask for help? You say you want your children to be kind humans. Are you showing them what that looks like? You tell your children to speak nicely? Are you speaking nicely? You say you want your child to grow up to be a confident, independent and adventurous. Are you leaving space for this in their lives today? Oh man, this one can be a bit challenging at times. It is a chance to reflect on who you are and how you are moving through this life. Are they aligned? Are you being truthful to yourself?
  3. Asteya: non-stealing. We have so many distractions in our lives, so many things asking for our attention, demanding our attention. It’s a constant battle. Are we stealing away the best of ourselves from those who deserve it most? The truth is that there will always be something out there for us to like, to watch, to follow, to comment on. There’s always more. And then more still. But every moment we disconnect from what’s real, from what’s happening around us, is a moment we are stealing from those in our presence. And it all comes down to exactly that, presence. Are we present? Are we truly there, engaged and involved in the moment? These children are. It’s all they know. But sometimes the moment gets lonely for them. The find themselves right by our sides, but completely alone. So disconnect to connect. Stop stealing these precious moments, this presence, from the ones who need it most.
  4. Brahacharya: how we use our energy, both the ways we conserve it and the ways we expend it. The demands on mothers are endless, but our energy is not. We have a limited amount of ourselves that we can give to the rest of the world, to our families and friends and communities. We must be mindful in how we direct this energy. We must also find ways to protect this energy, taking time to restore and recharge. The word “no” is not an easy one for many of us to say. We like to please, we like to help, we like to take on more and more so that we can contribute to those around us. But there comes a point, and it sneaks up on us, when giving more results in giving less across the board. So be mindful of your energy. Be conscious of where you are directing it. Take inventory of your obligations and your commitments, and be sure that they are meaningful and purposeful. And, of course, do not forget to slow down and recharge. The world moves fast and motherhood is demanding. Protecting your energy is your responsibility. Never forget this.
  5. Aparigraha: non-greediness, non-possessiveness. As a mother you may feel like you are constantly giving and sacrificing. That’s what mothers do. But in what ways are you being greedy and possessive as it relates to your goals in motherhood? If you look closely, you may be surprised. We want to desperately to protect our little ones from the world, but deep down we know that is not possible. They will know loneliness and fear and sadness. They will feel isolated at times and hopeless at other times. These feelings are a part of life and we cannot shield them from the shadows, as much as we may want to. It is in living through these moments that our children will come out stronger on the other side. So instead of trying to own their path, to direct and control, it is our jobs to equip them with the tools they need so that when these moments arise, they can confidently navigate them. And then, at some point, we have to release them and let them move forward. Our children are ours, but also they are not.

In what other ways do the Mama Yamas relate to your own motherhood journey? How can this foundation, this first limb, help to shape your approach to motherhood?

We are never perfect, and we are always evolving in this life. Leave room for this in motherhood as well. Practice mindful mothering. Move forward with intention. Begin with a solid foundation: The Mama Yamas.

Stay tuned for the next post…the Mama Niyamas!

Mama Yamas 8 Limbs of Yoga in Motherhood