My first experience with a yoga balance (or pose) consisted of me wobbling on one foot inside a quiet room, desperately hoping the other 30 participants in the yoga class wouldn’t notice if I toppled over. “Don’t fall, don’t fall, don’t fall,” I ordered myself.Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud. One thud was mine, but only one. Others were tumbling over too, and then getting right back up.
Maybe you’re a mom like me who feels she is teetering on one foot trying something unknown with each child’s new stage or personality. Maybe you feel like you’re the only one who falls. You are not.
As a yoga instructor, may I offer the principles of physical balance? They might help you attempt the greatest balance posture of all: Mother Pose.
Principles of Mother Pose
1. A balance pose is a process, not a goal. With each breath we consciously calm ourselves and then reach higher; balancing is a discovery process of our current strengths and weaknesses. Acknowledging the journey of motherhood helps us to be patient with ourselves and gives meaning to the trials.
2. Balance is not just for the flexible or athletic. Accept that anyone, even you, can learn balance. Often we think that powerful mothering is for everyone else, for women who are in some secret club we’re not a part of. This is not true. You have the wisdom, strength and courage to become the mother you want to be.
3. You need a safe, accepting place to attempt a balance. Allow yourself and others to make mistakes. Surround yourself with people who are positive and believe in you, like The Power of Moms. If you are lacking support, join or start a Learning Circle. http://powerofmoms.com/empowering-opportunities/learning-circles/
4. You need a flat surface. Identify what things are stressing you out and tipping you over. Take the necessary steps to reduce or eliminate the stress.
5. We have to fall to make progress. Sometimes in a balance posture we get tempted to jam ourselves in a pose, holding on for dear life, hoping nobody sees us fall. This tendency is steeped in fear, fear that we’re not living up to some invisible standard. As a mother, you are not on trial. You are part of a greater process that is refining you. If you reach and fall, you can get back up. Learn lessons from why you toppled and try again.
6. Balances are not stagnant. You are actually moving back and forth, but at a nearly imperceptible rate. Complete calm and peace are unrealistic ends; learning how to calm and gain peace amid the swaying of mothering is attainable. Each day your balance might change; my yesterday may not be my today given a new set of conditions. That’s normal.
7. Our eyes can be our greatest tool and biggest enemy. Finding a gaze point, like a fleck of color or light in the room, can stabilize your entire body. However, looking into a mirror during a yoga pose throws your balance off. Why? Our physical eyes deceive us, while “seeing from within” tunes us into the muscles that actually hold the balance. Do your eyes ever throw you off when studying yourself or other moms? We tend judge ourselves harshly in the mirror of motherhood. If we instead can focus our attention on what brings peace, then balance will come more naturally.
8. Balance emanates from your core. Develop a strong center; search out your mothering values. Write them and revisit them often. Make your mothering goals based on those central values and desires.
9. Ground your entire foot: ball, toe and heel. The more nerve endings that make contact with the floor, the more stable you are. I was shocked when I began planting all of my toes (especially my ring-finger toe). I was going places in balances I had never gone before. Are any parts of your soul being neglected? Address the fundamental needs in your mental, physical, emotional, spiritual, and social health.
10. We tend to hold our breath when stressed. Without air, we aren’t going anywhere! We must do those things that fuel us to bravely attempt Mother Pose. What do you need to thrive as a person? Here is a wonderful article from April on identifying the “air” you uniquely need in motherhood. http://powerofmoms.com/2011/05/mommy-is-a-person/
11. There is no “right” way to do the balance. Each body is completely different, and therefore your pose it not my pose. Just as we all have different leg lengths and spinal mobility, our children, experience and circumstances are all unique. Your Mother Pose is a beautiful, personal thing and is good enough!
12. Balance postures take the most amount of time. In a yoga practice we start on our weakest side. Balance isn’t something that occurs quickly because we may need to strengthen weak muscles or stretch overused muscles in order to achieve a pose. Which areas of your life will need tweaked before balance can occur for you? Address the area that is affecting the others the most. For me, this is regular eating and sleep. When I skip meals or just graze off of my children’s plates it’s a domino effect. I am grumpy and fatigued. I stop cooking, I overspend on eating out, and let the house go. When I am healthy and rested I am patient, fun, effective and happy.
It may seem odd, but when I’m on one foot, holding a crooked leg up in the air, I feel powerful. I feel brave. I don’t know that it’s particularly pretty or noteworthy, but I do know that the people around me get more courage to try. Mother Pose is something we are all attempting– and as we go for it other moms will follow. “Namaste” is the ending word in a yoga practice. It means, “The divine spark in my acknowledges the divine spark in you.”
QUESTION: If you were to do a Mother Pose, what do you think it would look like? How could a “namaste” approach to mothering positively affect you?
CHALLENGE: Answer two of the self-exploration questions in the article.