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

5 Ways to Practice Ahimsa in Motherhood

We recently took a deep dive into the Mama Yamas, which make up the first limb, the foundation of the 8 Limbs of Yoga in Motherhood. There are 5 of them, so it was a lot of information to digest. But now that you have the high-level view of the Mama Yamas, we are going to spend the next week focusing on incorporating them into our lives, working them into motherhood one at a time. Because talking (or reading) about guidelines and practices is only part of the process, now it’s time to build these into our days as we move towards a more mindful approach to motherhood.

Beginning with the first Mama Yama, Ahimsa, which means non-harming and non-violence, here are 5 ways to weave this into your day and hopefully, eventually your life.

  1. Harm and violence manifest in many ways in our daily lives, and so often this is directed at ourselves. So often the most painful dialogue takes place within our own minds, directed inwardly. But before we can truly make mindful shifts in life, we first need to be aware of what we are shifting. So this week, be aware. Just be aware. Listen to the words you are speaking to yourself. Hear what it is that you say when you look in the mirror, when you make a mistake, when you feel like you fall short of your expectations. Just listen. Tune in. Be aware.
  2. And this internal dialogue also flows out to those around us. So this week, also be mindful of the words you speak. Be mindful of the intentions behind those words. Be aware of the negativity, the passive aggression, the hurt that likes to creep into our messages. Negativity spreads so quickly, but so does positivity. Spread positivity. Spread love. Begin with your words.
  3. Mothers so often harm themselves, completely unintentionally. In our quest to love those around us, to provide for them any and everything, we often neglect to do the same for ourselves. And this happens over and over, day after day. And then this becomes a habit. And then this becomes the norm. And then our entire self is being poured into those around us and nothing is coming back to fill us up again. Soon the well runs dry. This week, allow yourself to make yourself a priority. Start with something simple. Demand 10 minutes a day to do what you want. Read. Write. Walk. Sit in silence. Fill yourself back up again. Soon this will become a habit. Then it becomes the norm. Then you are filling yourself up, over and over again, and you have so much more to give.
  4. Every time we choose to eat, we are making a decision regarding Ahimsa, but rarely do we even notice it. Every time we buy food at the grocery store or cook dinner, we have an opportunity to practice non-harming. Food is the fuel that we live off of. As mothers, we are often so involved in this decision for our families. What are we eating? What are we feeding them? How is this nourishing us? How is this harming us? Be aware. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself, but at least begin to be aware of the decisions you are making here. So much of this can become auto pilot, bring awareness back into this. Make these decisions consciously. As you choose food this week, be aware. Notice your habits here. Notice how and why you are making the decisions you are.
  5. Find movement. This body is miraculous. It carries us through our days and provides for us in ways we don’t even notice. But it was made to move. These muscles want to reach and stretch. These joints want to bend. These bones don’t want to sit in stillness for too long. Bring movement back into your life in a way that nourishes your body. And move with your little ones. Let their little bodies stretch and roll and twist and move. If we make this a part of our days and then our lives, it becomes a part of theirs too. This week find 5 minutes each day to move with your little one. Dance to a song, run down the sidewalk, do yoga, play at the park, crawl through the grass. Anything, but do it once a day.

As you begin to weave this into your days, notice any changes, any shifts. Moving away from harm and violence into a life of Ahimsa requires effort. It means we have to shift our routines and change our habits. It means we have to find different ways to view the world and those around us. But it also means that we become a channel of love and peace, and that, after all, is such an important piece of navigating through motherhood consciously and mindfully.

Ahimsa in Motherhood

Releasing Perfection in the Motherhood Journey

It’s a new year and everything is filled with the promise of a “new you”: a new diet, a new workout regimen, a new commitment, a new routine, a new anything and everything, as if "new" and "better" and "more" is precisely what we need. And as moms we judge ourselves harder than most, because our decisions, our choices spread beyond ourselves and truly impact the little ones in our lives. We hold ourselves to such high standards, we strive for perfection and take on more and more while our plates are already full. Often times we develop an idea of perfection and we reach for it, we reach high. And every day we are faced with so many challenges, and so many chances to overcome these challenges with grace or to be overcome by them. At the end of the day, we may wonder if we moved any closer to that idea of perfection. Did we cover any ground? Will we ever get there?

But where is this idea of perfection coming from? And is anyone really ever achieving it? We live in a world of airbrushing and filters. We see lives portrayed on social media and we think that is life, that is real, that is what we are reaching for. But is it? This world is filled with struggle, and motherhood can be one of the greatest. To step into the identity of a mother and to expect ourselves to walk this journey in perfection, it is perhaps one of the greatest injustices we can do to ourselves.

So release this. Release the idea of perfection. Open up to the mother you are, the mother you are always becoming, and embrace this identity. We can always hope to walk through the journey of motherhood with a little more grace, a little more patience, a little more ease. But we cannot ask ourselves to walk through this journey with perfection. We cannot expect ourselves to match those airbrushed versions of womanhood, those staged and filtered versions of motherhood. The curated images are not the real journey.