The new year is a time when we are all reminded of goals to be more focused, healthier and maybe even a little more fit. Since our daughter’s adoption last Christmas, I think I’ll also spend my early January recalling the beginnings of 2014, when I was juggling the goal setting and whirl of the new year with the challenges and beauty of being a new, first time parent. In many ways, there was no better time for me to think about a restart to my life as a new parent than the new year.
The surprise of our rather fast moving adoption process in addition to the daily new challenges and excitements of having an infant was a whole new world for me. Exercise has been a solace for me for a long time, so it made sense that even on little sleep I was ready for even an hour or two a week of time to move around and feel more comfortable in my own skin.
Fast paced runs or spin classes were no match for the over-stimulation I was already feeling at home, and I found myself craving some yoga time. Just a few classes later over the first months of our new family dynamic, and it was easy for me to see why my mind associated the practice of yoga with my needs and goals as a new mom, and that I was thriving from my time in yoga in more ways than just physically. There’s a few reasons why I will always associate my better days as a new mom with the lessons learned in my yoga practice, and why I recommend it to new parents who feel ready for exercise and have been cleared medically for it as well.
Get Comfortable in the Uncomfortable
The biggest challenge in having an infant for my husband and I was we are by nature fast-moving problem solvers, and there was something in our house that had us completely stumped. We’ve encountered plenty of strife and hiccups in life before, but we are the type to find the solution and fix it. No matter what you Google, research or try, a small baby is going take you through trials (most of them sleep related) where the only solution is a little more time.
In yoga, we are taught to take the gentle but constant discomfort of a pose and instead of moving out of it, embrace the challenge of finding mental stillness and even contentment in a physical pain. Both examples remind me that sometimes, the only way out is through. Settling in for the long haul and choosing to find strength instead of frustration in these moments or chapters is what makes us more resilient.
Growing is Better in Community
While I would have loved to drive to Austin to meet our newborn daughter with a painted, styled and fully stocked nursery waiting for her at home, the truth is we flew down I-35 South with a car seat I had ordered on a whim, leaving a key to our house for my parents and begging them to at least move the painters’ drop cloths from their work in our home just three days before! Imagine my surprise coming home to a fully cleaned and organized house, filled to the brim with baby supplies in every shade from blush to bubblegum pink. Doing things alone has its own fulfilling sense of accomplishment, but welcoming a new challenge in life with the help of community is such a great feeling.
A yoga class during this time was also special to me as I drew gains from practicing alongside a mix of seasoned and beginner yogis, many of whom were moms themselves. Sharing with someone before or after class what I was going through was always met with welcome and empathy. The community of people I became close to in my yoga classes during this time bolstered me as much as the chance to stretch and move.
It’s a Practice, Not a Perfect
Another lesson I quickly learned as a new parent is that odds are, I won’t get it all right every day. A new baby is someone you have to get to know and can only sometimes really figure out through a little trial and error. Some days the goal of meeting the day with humility, an eagerness to do my best and a willingness to learn was all I set out to do and without surprise, those were the days I fared the best.
As a new mom in yoga, I didn’t set or exceed any records or accomplish anything noteworthy in terms of new postures or form, but I did show up as often as I could. I was polite and I tried a little bit of everything before enjoying the quiet of our nap-like shavassana more than anyone else in the room. Even the most experienced yogis are open to how their practice changes each day based on their physical and mental state and their environment. Yoga is called a practice in that we never become flawless or declare ourselves finished product. There are few ideas that relate to my thoughts on life as a parent more than this.
Be Better to Everyone Else by Being Better to You
With lots of catch-up to do getting ready for a new baby that’s already arrived, a lack of sleep and the thought that, as slow moving as it seemed at the time, babies don’t keep, leaving the house for personal time could be daunting and guilt inducing. In hindsight, though, the days where I took even just an hour to myself as a new mom were the ones with the most laughter, the most peace and the most memories. I felt a little better and I could be a little better. With the fullness of life around the holidays and the daunting nature of the new year, it is easy to think there is no time for ourselves. I’ll always be proud of the times I did take a moment for quality time with myself and my yoga mat as a new mom, and if I could do it then I’d like to think I can do it now too.
It’s hard to believe I have a one year old daughter and the chapter of life that started last January is already a lesson from the past! As we move into 2015, I hope you find something for yourself that feels as natural, gratifying and empowering as yoga was to me this time last year. As a fellow Mom warrior, I bow to the spirit of you and say, Momaste.