Yoga wasn’t something I actively sought out. It was more of a solution to a problem I had that eventually changed my life. In my early 20’s I was in the passenger seat of a car accident. I got a severe case of whiplash and was told to seek help from massage therapy, physical therapy, and a chiropractor for the out-of-place bones along my spine and hip. All of these were great for a while, but costly on my limited budget. I had read about yoga helping with the manipulation of muscle and bone alignment, and this is where my life-long journey to exploring yoga began for my health and sanity. What I didn’t expect is how important yoga would become when I became a mother.
In the past my limited knowledge of yoga made me skeptical about its health benefits. I had known people that scoffed at my mentioning the word ‘yoga,’ with their fear of being turned into a Buddhist. Some people I knew assumed you had to change your religion to practice yoga. Ironically yoga eventually became a personal religion for me – I need to practice it on a regular basis to function properly, both physically and mentally.
Initially when I practiced yoga I noticed that one session of yoga helped me feel just as good as doing two sessions of massage therapy and seeing my chiropractor. Soon my muscle strength improved, triggering me to drop my physical therapist. What I wasn’t expecting is the bonus side effect of yoga, which required the need to turn your brain off and stay in the present in order to do each yoga pose successfully. Yoga became my form of meditation. I began to sleep better. My mood improved. I was able to stay calmer in stressful situations. I no longer found a need to see my chiropractor, yoga kept my bones aligned. I only went to a massage therapist if I wanted to be pampered.
The more I practiced yoga the more I started to be more aware of my surroundings, including the toxic people in my life. I liked my calmer state. I slowly began to distance myself from people that were not a positive light in my life. I ended up being so grateful for getting in that car accident that I didn’t see it as a tragedy in my life, but a blessing. It reminded me that I have to find time in my life to slow down, relax, and give my body a break. A simple thought, yes, but not so easy to stick to once you get married and have children.
As the years passed, I began having difficulty with stressful situations that life handed me. I realized it was because I didn’t give myself any breaks. My mind and body were not in sync. One session of yoga was all I needed if I was doing other forms of exercise during the week.
When I was pregnant with both my children I practiced pregnancy yoga. Once both children were three-months-old and my body had a little strength, I did post-natal yoga using my babies as my props. This helped me develop a stronger bond with my children as well.
I didn’t have the luxury of babysitters and family close by to look after my kids to give me time to take care of myself. I began to incorporate my children into my daily me-time by simply watching DVD instructed yoga or exercise programs, while my children ran and played around me. Yoga, became a must at least once a week. (My favorite is GIAM yoga DVDs).
Now both my children love trying some of my yoga moves, especially downward dog and both called it “Oga,” at the age of two. I realized that incorporating my children and exposing them to my yoga practice has positively influenced them to stay active and challenge their bodies. I unconsciously set the tone for their future physical activity.
For some people the thought of having their children run and play around you defeats the purpose of calm me-time, but for me it became an extra challenge of staying in the moment and focusing on the yoga pose. Yes you will have to stop your child from doing something that might hurt themselves from time to time. Just pause the DVD. Other times you may just have to let your two-year-old destroy his big sister’s Lego castle. But, that’s OK. Stretching out the tension in your muscles is more important in the long run. A pause is just a pause, re-group and come back to the yoga pose, and focus on your body.
Most importantly my practice of yoga has kept my mind and body in balance. I noticed after my babies were born my hormones were completely out of whack. The muscles in my upper quads and hamstrings were tight from excessive sitting during feedings, and also from leaning forward slightly when pushing a baby stroller. I wasn’t paying attention to my posture, causing lower back pain. My upper leg muscle tightness eventually gave me pain in my knees from pulling on the muscles around my knees. As soon as my legs were stretched out from yoga poses, the pain and tightness around my knees and upper legs decreased. My posture improved. I also realized I released tension and tightness in other parts of my body that I didn’t notice before, like my neck, upper back and shoulders. All from holding and feeding my babies.
Plus, my mood swings from the hormone changes after birth decreased, and my outlook was more positive. Every time I became moody or overwhelmed from two over-active children, daily stresses and relationships, I knew I had forgotten about me-time. Yoga became my savior when no one else was around to give me a break.
Yoga might not be for everyone, but for me it keeps me balanced in both mind and body. There are a variety of styles to choose from until you find your best fit. Styles like Flow, Vinyasa, Restorative Yin and Ashtanga are good ones to start with. Don’t make it complicated by trying something like Iyangar yoga, which will have you standing on your head your first session.
Take your time, and take time out for your health and sanity with yoga. If you start practicing before you have children you will realize how much more you need it when you do have children. It truly provides mommy sanity. The health benefits of yoga never end through life, and will always keep you aware of your body and how it reacts to basic life changes. Yoga is another practice that can help lead you to a healthy balanced world.
After children you have menopause to look forward to. Here are a couple of articles I wrote about Yoga and Menopause:
Menopause and Yoga: http://healthybalancedworld.com/menopause-and-yoga/
Yoga Poses for Menopause: http://healthybalancedworld.com/yoga-poses-for-menopause/
Photo Credit: FreeDigitalPhotos.net By sattva