The 8 Limbs of Yoga in Motherhood: Pranayama

On our journey up the 8 Limbs of Yoga in Motherhood, the next limb we come to is Pranayama, but we'll call it PranaMama since we're bringing this all back to motherhood. Prana is breath, it's the life force, the constant inhale and exhale that brings energy to our being. Pranayama(Mama) is the control or regulation of this breath, often through exercises and specific techniques. This simple practice, this holds so much power, and it is a great tool for mothers!

Our breath is beautiful. It can be nourishing and energizing, bringing vitality to our bodies and clarity to our minds. Motherhood is beautiful too. But it a can feel depleting at times, leaving us exhausted and drained. Our prana is a guiding light out of this darkness and back into the light. Just like when we practice yoga, in motherhood we must also continue to come back to this powerful breath. We must acknowledge when the tides of motherhood are carrying us out too deep, and return to our inhale and exhale to feel grounded, supported and strong once again.

We walk through our days with shallow inhales and exhales that are cut short. We forget about this thing we have called breath, and we ignore the strength we can draw from it. The hours fly by and the days tumble into each other. We are scrambling to keep up and to be the best mothers we can be. It's so easy to forget to take time for this beautiful thing called breath. But we must.

So sit down mama. Relax the muscles your jaw. Draw your shoulder blades just slightly closer on your back. Breathe in through your nose and feel the cool air travel in through your nostrils. Feel your lungs expand completely, your belly rising. Embrace that fullness.

Pause at the top of that inhale. Can you sip in just a bit more? Now pause again.

Now move into the exhale. Releasing the air back out through your nose. Feel your belly release, your lungs emptying fully as the last of the warm air leaves your nostrils. Embrace that emptiness.

Pause at the bottom of that exhale. Can you release just a bit more? Now pause again.

Repeat if you like. Notice the shifts.

Draw strength from this practice of PranaMama. Feel grounded and supported. Welcome in that clarity and peace. We can all use a bit more of this in our lives. Now venture back out into that world of motherhood, and know that these inhales and exhales are always here, right here, when you need them.

Mom and Baby Pranayama

The 8 Limbs of Yoga in Motherhood: The Ahhhsana

The third limb of yoga in the 8 Limbs of Yoga in Motherhood is Asana, or as we’ll call it here: Ahhhsana. This is the part of yoga that many of us know well; it’s often times what brought us to the mat in the first place. It’s the movement, the postures. It’s the opening and the closing, the expansion and the contraction of the body. And we call it the Ahhhsana because it should feel like that word sounds. It should nourish and rejuvenate and replenish and restore.

Motherhood is so demanding and so much is required of our bodies. We grow a human life, we expand to make room for that life to develop and mature, and then we bring that life into this world. We endure long days, sleepless nights and late night feedings. Then we find the strength to get up and do it all again the next day and the next. We pick babies up and put them down and pick them up and put them down. Then we pick them up again. We hold our little beings on our hips with one hand while we make dinner with the other hand. We open the stove with our foot and close the fridge with our shoulder. Our bodies become off balanced and stressed. We develop carpal tunnel syndrome and our posture goes downhill.

And during all of this, we often times put our own needs last. We focus so intently on our darling babies, our babies who almost always need something from us, and we put our own needs on hold. It’s so easy to say that we are being selfless in doing this, but are we? Is it really best for our families if our health declines? If we do not make ourselves a priority and take care of our physical bodies, we will one day find that we have less to give and share with those we love.

So welcome Ahhhsana into motherhood. Find time each day, even if it’s just for 5 minutes, to reach up high and bend down low, to twist your spine and extend your limbs. Open your heart and expand your ribcage. There is so much healing that happens when we connect with these postures and move through our Ahhhsanas.

Many mothers have so little time, and committing to a yoga practice can feel like a scary step to take. Make it small. Roll your mat out and keep it rolled out for an entire week. When you pass it, step onto it and hold one posture, just one. See how it feels. Touch your toes or hold a Warrior pose. See how it feels. And the next time you pass that mat, do it again. Come up into Cobra or balance into Tree pose. See how it feels. Maybe commit to one simple flow, perhaps a series of 5 postures. And bring your little one onto the mat with you. Let them crawl under you in downward facing dog and climb up your legs in chair pose. Make it fun and playful, and make it feel good. Enjoy your Ahhhsana.

Motherhood is hard and it takes a toll on our bodies. We are doing a disservice to everyone in our lives if we do not take the time to nourish, rejuvenate, replenish and restore these amazing bodies. So take the time, commit to a posture and then maybe another. Roll your mat out. This, mama, this is the first step.

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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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What to Expect from our Mom & Toddler Yoga & Music Classes

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times". These may be the first lines of the classic piece of literature, A Tale of Two Cities, but they could also be the title of a memoir describing daily life with a toddler. These little people are so darn fun and SO utterly exhausting! They seem to be here specifically to call us to dig into our deepest wells of peace, patience and forgiveness. There are moments, most likely at least once a day, when mothering a toddler when you say to yourself, "I have no idea how to do this" or "I am SO frustrated!" We get it. They are testing their boundaries. They are growing and changing at exponential rates and they are testing you constantly. 

Our team at Seed & Song gets it. We are in the midst of mothering toddlers. We are still trying to figure out how to not throw your own tantrum when dealing with your toddler's tantrum. This is exactly why we have created our Seed & Song Mom and Toddler class. We want to teach our toddlers how to speak, explore and play with others. Even more than this, we want to teach them how to be strong, how to find peace and patience within themselves, and how to be kind. We need this for ourselves too. Our toddler class is fast paced, full of amazing music, yoga (for mom too!), art, and play BUT at the heart of this class are the principles we know you are trying to live out and teach your child. We will be fostering a space to take a breath, be kind to our neighbors, and love each other.  

The Primal Fears of Motherhood

The human condition is part of our journey. Our ability to recognize fear in our body, mind, and intuition is rooted in our DNA. Our ability to respond to fear is optional. Fears can show up wearing different masks but can generally be reduced to three primal fears. Which of the following show up for you?

Fear of not being loved (community and connectedness)

Also known as fear of rejection or being judged. Feeling connected is a primal need. Take other mammals and even our ancestors as an example; traveling together is safer. We are stronger together. We have more skills, strengths, and support when we belong to something greater. That is, when we can negotiate through conflict and disagreements. Fear in this area can surface when our sense of belonging is threatened. For mothers, this might show up as judgement from communities, family members, other mothers.

Fear of lack of purpose (profession and higher purpose)

Bringing life into the world illumines the primal sense of purpose in a whole light.  As mothers there is a new sense of responsibility when your little one depends on you for everything. Fear of not fulfilling your divine life’s purpose for new mothers can translate to fear of your professional identity on hold. Your higher purpose may shift during the transition into motherhood. In general, with transition brings fear of the unknown.

Fear of dying (baby is thriving, survival needs met)

According to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, our most basic survival-based needs must be met in order to ascend to higher goals and aspirations. If we are concerned with where we live, eat, sleep, or if our safety is compromised we cannot act, speak, or think from a place of love. It’s stressful being an adult responsible for the needs of your children. The stress of sustaining life and providing clean, safe space might look different in modern day world than in primordial times.

So, what’s the antidote for fear?

Connect to the love you have for yourself and your baby.  Share your fears and bring them out of the shadows. Fear itself serves a purpose. It can teach us about ourselves and help us to grow. When we expose our deepest fears they no longer have the power to control our thoughts and actions. Use your tools. Whether it be meditation, yoga, dancing, breathing, singing, painting... The more we create with wild abandon, the less room fear has to occupy our subconscious.  

What yoga teaches us about duality and the importance of AND.

It’s inevitable. Duality shows up our lives through our emotions, nature, circumstance, energy and thoughts. Bringing a child into this world is both challenging and incredible, exhausting and euphoric. Stepping into motherhood is no different. In fact, parenting might be the most intense reflection of the highest highs and lowest lows.

Yoga is not the practice for maintaining the high, but rather oscillating between the two with grace and compassion. Practicing yoga does not make you a better mother, but rather gives you the tools to trust yourself.  

You need not choose between anything. You are a living, breathing, human caring for another living breathing human. There is an AND.  AND gives us permission to experience the [emotion, circumstance, environment, condition]. In the same moment you might be grateful for this little being AND frustrated that they don’t sleep, blessed with the gift of life AND stressed from daily demands, totally in love with your baby AND mourning your former freedom. These feelings carry information, offering awareness and opportunities for acceptance.  Damage happens when we deny our experience. You are not alone.

Power thoughts for coping with duality:

  1. This [emotion, circumstance, environment, condition] is temporary.

  2. Like nature, I am always changing, growing and molting. I give myself permission to release old identities to create way for new ones.

  3. I honor my spectrum of emotions as an emblem of being alive.

  4. I am not alone

Share about a time when you experienced an ‘AND’ in your life.