Guest Post by Liat Pakes
As of today, I have been practicing one year of motherhood. I never thought that this role would suit me or that I would find in it such contentment.
We are a wandering family and currently we are living in Andalucía Spain. I would love to say that “I am a wandering yoga teacher” but honestly I am mainly a “wandering mother”. Here and there I teach but for the most part I am my own teacher.
I am learning to let go of the “Yoga teacher” image and accept that my physical practice has changed. Today I practice Asanas 3-4 times a week for barely an hour. My body has changed and my physical ability has changed as well. I am learning to devote myself to the present: Love
The intensity of love that only gets stronger from day to day is not a cliché – it’s my truth. I am in love with my son and for me it does not go without saying.
So here I am today…a mother and the best “yogini” I’ve ever been in my life.
I will begin by explaining why I think parenthood and motherhood specifically are the fulfillment of the eight limbs of Yoga in the most authentic way.
Let’s start from the inside – the Niyamas: Our attitude and behavior towards ourselves.
As a parent we start from the final Niyama: Devotion to God. We are devoted to our children, to their needs unconditionally, letting go of our ego and not expecting anything in return. I cannot imagine anything greater or more whole then this kind of devotion.
Svadhyaya: Self-study: As a new parent, you are constantly learning: sleep habits, different types of and cries more. You are getting to know your baby and as he changes so you continue to learn and adapt – it is never ending.
Tapas: Discipline, willpower, perseverance and determination. Already during pregnancy we are so determent to keep our baby safe and healthy. Certainly during birth there is no one more determined and powerful than us mothers. In order to be a parent perseverance and endless strength are needed.
Santosha: Satisfaction – to be content with what you have. No doubt this can be a challenge. As a new parent, life keeps changing in unknown ways and may become routine and sometimes very challenging. Finding inner peace and satisfaction requires deep internal work.
Shaucha: Cleanliness: The moment when you are alone in the shower is a perfect moment for a mother. Do not take this time of cleansing for granted… the peacefulness, only you and the water.
The Yamas : Our attitude toward the outside world / environment, everything that is not “me”
My baby has reached one year old and now so many new questions arise.
What kind of mother do I want to be? When should I say No and when to allow? What kind of food do I want to feed him? When and how do I set limits?
Fears come up that I didn’t know existed, new worries. He’s started to walk, to chatter to develop his own personality. He has desires and is constantly checking boundaries. How do I react? Educate him?
I have discovered that at this stage, the Yamas have been an amazing tool.
The Yamas prevent us from wasting energy.
Parenthood is physically and mentally exhausting. Our energy and time are limited and therefore we need to direct and use them wisely and mindfully.
I will explain what I mean…
The first Yama: Ahimsa: non-harming / non-violence in thought, words and deeds. Here there is no room for doubt – We must not harm our children or our environment in any way. But Ahimsa has additional significance.
Ahimsa towards oneself: We must not harm ourselves. As mothers we sometimes forget our own physical, mental and emotional needs. If we neglect ourselves and do not take care of our body and soul then we cannot love, be compassionate, teach and be present for our children.
Ahimsa towards our children: Whatever way we choose to educate our children, we must do so non-violently, choose our words carefully, develop patience even when he or she is crying or screaming, be understanding that this is just a stage in development. Be present knowing that this will pass. This is yoga in all its power/intensity.
Satya: Truthfulness in words, actions and thought
Whenever I am not sure how to behave in a particular situation, I find that Satya is always the right way thereby not wasting my energy on indecisiveness.
When a child misbehaves it is a challenge for parents – how to deal with it and how to deter the child from continuing this behavior. Often what seems the easiest solution is actually
the most complicated one. Some chose to frighten the child into behaving, for example saying “If you continue to behave this way, a policeman will come and take you away”. Not only are we being untruthful but we may be instilling in the child a fear of the police as well as a fear of abandonment.
Moreover, if the child continues to misbehave and the police do not come, the child learns that the parent does not speak the truth and cannot be trusted or believed. This is a situation that easily can be and should be avoided.
Asteya: Not to steal.
Most of us do not steal and do not take what is not ours so it is a given that we teach our children not to steal. But as with Ahimsa, there is a deeper meaning.
I often find myself doing two things at the same time – feeding my son and writing an e-mail, or eating a meal and playing ball with my son. What is happening is that I am stealing time; I am not entirely present in either situation. In order to practice Asteya, we must not “steal” time. Time is precious for parents. However, we lose the deep meaning of yoga and of life when we give up being truly present in a given moment in time. It takes practice and we won’t always succeed but that’s okay. We practice Ahisma towards ourselves – compassion and patience.
Brahmacharya: Right use of energy / sexual restraint.
Direct your sexual energy to the right place and develop relationships that support’s your way. There is a right way for every period in our life. As parents we are in a period of building a family and in this we need to put our energies. If we are honest with ourselves, for most of us this is not the best time of our sexual life. We are after giving birth, we may still be breastfeeding and there is little time for intimacy and sleep. During this period in our life we are developing a relationship with our child and a new one with our spouse, a new couple identity as parents.
In the yogi text Upanishads students are encouraged to finish their studies, get married and begin a family. Understood from this is that as parents we have finished our period of formal studies and are now ready to direct our energy from classic studies (physical practice and yogi texts) to the next stage in life – building a family.
Aparigraha: Non-possessiveness / self-restraint, the last Yama
When a baby is born, understandably there is a need for some new things like baby clothes, crib, stroller, highchair and the like. However, many parents go overboard and accumulate material goods that very quickly no longer have any use or are impractical. The less we pour our energy
into buying and accumulating more material things, (today it is common to swap with parents and/or buy second hand) the more time we will have to focus on the essential – yoga.
In conclusion, the Yamas and the Niyamas are here to support us in our daily life and to give us strength to explore deeper and immerse ourselves into the way of yoga with love and compassion.