When I was talking to a friend the other day about the me before babies came on the scene, and the me after having raised two children, I remarked “you know that thing you feel after you’ve had children, that feeling, that different way of looking at the world, that tolerance, that wider view – it’s quite a deep thing isn’t it?” To which she replied “yes, I know exactly what you mean – that feeling that you are somehow wiser in a very different way…” And it was at this point that I realised that so often as mothers, we do not necessarily support and celebrate this new part of ourselves.
These feelings that arise postnatally are about what it is to be Mother – and the sense of how this experience can unify women with the beginnings of life and even Mother Earth itself. Of course, like all such deeply felt experiences that we try to put into words, its very description on paper can somehow appear to diminish it. This, I stress, is not my intention. So let us focus a little more on the process.
As the weeks and the months go by after having a baby, and a woman begins to feel a new found strength arising from this sense of what it is to be Mother, yoga on the mat can help support this process. As a YogaBirth Active Birth Teacher and midwife, I have taught pregnant women for many years. Women will arrive at the pregnancy class perhaps feeling tired and weary, or with a sense of joyful anticipation. Whatever, they bring to the class, they are always able to leave behind whatever has been their distraction during the day and access a deeper part of themselves. This represents the very beginnings of what it is to be Mother.
Re-establishing a yoga practice after childbirth is no easy matter. Maybe because caring for and nurturing a baby is in itself a different expression of one’s new felt sense of being and connectedness. Bhakti yoga, the yoga of devotion, and Karma Yoga, the yoga of selfless service to others, spring to mind – but I think, within the context of motherhood, it is something more.
When women first return to my classes with their babies, it is usually within the informal setting of a “Baby Yoga” class. This is a wonderful way to support and celebrate the connection and love between mother and baby. Through discussion, songs and movement, these classes open up all sorts of possibilities to women. It can sometimes be a little chaotic, but that is OK.
However, we do not own our children. As much as we are part of our families, our society and the community of women, we always come back to who we think we are – and we are alone in that. The journey of yoga teaches us to somehow go beyond this, and to put aside any fear that may be in the way.
Following childbirth, fears and doubts may still linger. Healing and recovery are essential, not just physical but emotional and spiritual too. By the time babies are about 4 or 5 months old, many mothers are beginning to look toward something else to address this need to go deeper within themselves. It is only after we are able to do this that we can use this inner strength to support others.
I run a weekly postnatal class for women and their babies. It is based on the principles of using the ground, the breath and the spine to explore integrated movement that is both
supported and functional. By attending each week, women feel recharged and good about themselves. Through this specialised yoga practice and breath awareness, women learn how to release the normal tensions that come with feeding, carrying and comforting their babies. Energy levels can then begin to rise as
core strength returns.
The experience of living through the early days of motherhood is such a precious time – it’s a time for healing and recovery, a time for celebrating and supporting our baby’s first relationship, a time to support ourselves and each other as mothers. Yoga can provide us with a means to access all of this and more. As our practice deepens we can begin to access the Wise Woman within us all – a new found sense of what it is to be part of the cycle of life.
Postnatal classes include:
- Pelvic floor education
- Abdominal and core strength
- Postural awareness
- Breath awareness
Judy Cameron 2012