For this next installment of the Mindful Mama series, I asked my good friend (and maybe one of the most balanced mamas I can think of) to share how she manages to make time and space for your practice in her busy world as the mother of two active boys (one toddler and one baby).
Liz is a yoga teacher and mama who lives in Austin, Texas. (Texas friends, LOOK HER UP!) I have had a crush on Liz’s writing—which you can find on her amazing blog Blissful Betty—for a long time, and I also love following the little bits and pieces of her life she shares on social media. I knew she wouldn’t gloss over how difficult it can be committed to both your family and to mindfulness practices like yoga and meditation—even for someone who makes a living as a yoga teacher! Thanks for keeping it real, Liz!
Keep reading, Mamas, because my friend is about to share some really practical advice for staying sane and staying true to yourself.
|Photo by Ray Dumas|
How has your yoga practice changed since you became a mom?
I practice way less asana and a lot more meditation, pranayama, and focus inwards. There is a lot more samadhi (or bliss) in the little moments and in the moments I can unroll my mat and move my body. There also are A LOT of heart/shoulder openers and slow mindful core work. Really, my practice has become about being as present as I can with my boys, with my family and friends, and most importantly, myself.
I recently wrote what it means to me to be a yoga mama, and I know you’ll have some great insights to share on that topic. What does being a “yoga mama” mean to you?
Well, this yoga mama defines “yoga mama” as a lady who:
Shows her kiddos what a yoga practice looks like by doing her physical practice whether it is nap time or not. Even if that means down dog becomes an instant jungle-gym.
Uses the values from the yamas and the niyamas as morals for the young ones. It’s kinda perfect after all: non-violence, truth, not-stealing, restraint, and not wanting couldn’t be better guidelines for children or adults. Plus keeping cleaning, being happy with what you have, learning self-discipline, starting self-study, and learning about surrendering.
Meditates over her morning cup of coffee because getting up before the rest of the family does is too exhausting.
And, lastly, but most importantly, she knows that yoga is all about being present with your children, with your partner, and with yourself when you need to be.
Tell me how you incorporate the eight limbs of yoga into your life as a mom. Is there one limb that’s harder than others for you? How do you overcome that?
Funny, you should ask! I make it my job to live the eight limbs, so YES my off the mat yoga is more common than on the mat.
As I mentioned before, the yama and niyamas become guides for raising my boys. Asana and pranayama are daily or every other day practices, mostly so I stay able in my body to chase and play. Pranayama is often a means to calm down and even my toddler uses a four part breath when he gets frustrated.
Turning inwards is tougher, as most parents know, getting some quality alone time to connect with myself is low on the totem pole. And focusing my mind takes a lot longer when I’m trying my best to not be in mom brain and thinking of 20 things at once. Mediation is often over my cup of morning coffee and sometimes on the cushion, eyes closed, and chanting. BLISS is everywhere, it is just a matter of noticing it: the little “I love you, mom”s, noticing a beautiful sunrise or sunset, catching a friend at the coffee shop. It is seeing these things instead of focusing on the things I am lacking—like sleep!
Amen to that! So, you recently added a new adorable boy to your family. How are things going as a mom as two? What’s been your biggest challenge?
I knew that this first year would be tough—a baby and a toddler. The needs are different for them and to spilt attention between whose needs are greater in the moment can be tough, but the love is also so much more! I’m lucky enough that the toddler is in a great little pre-school that he loves, so I get to spend time with Kai and bond. The biggest challenge has been taking the time I need for myself. My mantra lately has been presence not perfection. I don’t need to be anyone’s idea of perfect. That is what really challenges me—trying to do it all and taking care of my own needs, which often come last.
Let’s talk about mom guilt. Do you ever feel guilty about taking time for yourself? Has anything helped you with that?
Mom guilt is SO real. With my first, I had a lot of mom guilt any time I went to teach or took time for myself. With the second one, though, I make an effort to get monthly massages, and I don’t feel as bad about getting out of the house. It makes me a better mom when I get to leave. It makes me more focused on the boys. It most definitely makes it easier to play trains for hours or dance to the same song over and over again. I don’t leave for excessive amounts of time, but taking time to just be me is crucial for me to be a great parent!
Do you have any time-saving tips for other busy moms out there trying to juggle everything? What’s one simple thing they can do to make more time for themselves?
Best advice I can give is figure out your priorities. You can’t do it all so you decide is most important. My opinion is that the house can be a mess as long as the kids are happy. For me, happy healthy boys and a happy healthy mama are most important.
The best way to make time for yourself is TAKING IT. Take time for yourself, every day. Even if it is just 10 minutes when the kids go to bed, when it is nap time, whenever. The dishes will get done, so will the laundry, the vacuuming, the chores will get done. Take time for yourself every day.
What yoga pose are you loving right now? Are there any poses you do with your boys?
Puppy Pose! Oh my guru, I love this pose. It helps heal my aching shoulders from rocking baby all day, it helps all the love in my heart move into every part of my body.
My toddler LOVES to climb all over my body when he gets a chance to do yoga with me. He also has a pretty fabulous Three-Legged Down Dog, and he is working on flipping his dog right now. Right now the boys are really too young to be super involved in my practice, but I love doing Goddess Pose with Kai in the sling and of course Aiden will join me for some bed time yoga (we like the book Yawning Yoga by Laurie Jordan).
Mostly I see mamas who cannot be still. They fidget. They can’t keep their eyes closed, they just struggle with being still and appreciating self care. Mom guilt is real, but restorative practices are not just a luxury of lounging around on bolsters and blankets. Oh no, the challenge of being still and being alone with yourself is actually a gift. That’s right, mamas, alone time. Quietly being with yourself and feeling the aches in our tired and new bodies can be harder than a 100 Sun Salutations, but ultimately it is the best thing a new mama can do for herself.
The other thing would be to only go to yoga once a month or sporadically, even I am guilty of this. While my home practice is daily, the joy of attending a class is irreplaceable. And consistency in your practice will do wonders for reconnecting to this new post baby body. I assure you, it is worth taking a restorative class once a week once activity is approved by a midwife or doctor. The peacefulness alone is worth taking the class.
Do you have a morning ritual? What is it?
I do! While it varies a little bit (especially when someone is sick or my guy is traveling), I sip coffee while scribbling words down quickly while Aiden plays trains or trucks (Kai sleeps in these days) or if I can wake up before everyone else, I meditate over that cup of coffee. There is feeding of the dogs, making of breakfast and eating it, and prepping Aiden for school. Sometime in there, I get dressed and brush my teeth if my coffee is finished. Come 9am, kiddo is in school and I can practice some yoga, write, and just enjoy some time with Kai. Mornings are busy but beautiful times.
You have a whole morning to yourself. How do you spend it?
Oh, my fantasy! Well, I would like to say something fancy like enjoying a spa morning or taking over the yoga world, but honestly a whole morning for myself would probably just be enjoying coffee while it is still hot, taking a yoga class, and getting to read or write for a hour or two. My needs are definitely more simple these days.
What’s one thing you wish you had known before you had your first baby?
I wish I had known how much of myself you really give. It is a beautiful offering of self, but it is exhausting at times and it can lead mamas to martyrdom instead of motherhood. Giving isn’t the problem though—it is giving without having a full cup to begin with. The first baby you want to be there for every little thing. I didn’t want to go get a massage even though my body was aching for worry that my baby would need me. The truth is sure he might have missed me a little bit, but an hour to take care of myself is nothing. As a new mama you give a lot, you receive a lot, too, but it takes more to keep you full. Self care, taking time for yourself is one of the things I wish I had done more of when Aiden was born.