Ashtanga Yoga is a demanding discipline, both mentally and physically - the practice requires much dedication and trust in the process. If we choose to add a family to that equation, things can become even more complex and challenging.
For most dedicated Ashtangis, the sadhana (asana and meditation practice) is the most important time of our day. We adjust our life styles, eating and sleeping habits, communities, and sometimes even locations to accommodate this beautiful practice in our daily schedules.
When becoming a parent, if we want to sustain our practice and still be present for our kids and family, we may need to adapt even further. As a parent, “me time” becomes so valuable and luxurious, as it seems that with the advent of parenthood, our priority shifts instantly from “me” to “us”.
This quick change in perspective was quite a shock for me. It took some time to let go of strong attachment to my 'me-centric' daily rituals and routines, and realize that the addition of family demands greater attention to the yogic discipline of seva (the act of selfless service). Seva is a central part of my Yoga, requiring me to take the practice beyond the mat and live it 24/7, cultivating generosity and selflessness when possible, and instituting patience and kindness when necessary.
Parenthood and teaching are the same in this context: they're all about practicing seva, and maintaining enough energy to serve my family and my students. As a woman, and a mother, I have found a source of great strength in practicing kindness towards myself and others. When we understand Yoga as a way of life, and not something we practice only on the mat, there are endless opportunities during our days to reflect and enact our yogic ideals along life’s many paths.
Becoming a mother put me in greater touch with my feminine side and my practice became softer and gentler. Motherhood has allowed me to cultivate more compassion towards myself and others. Practice now is about how to conserve and contain the energy I need in order to be more present for my daughter.
If we learn to listen to our bodies and be honest with ourselves, intuitively, as a woman, we have knowledge of what we need in order to get back into balance and ground ourselves. Sometimes we need an extra rest day, sometimes we require a soft, short practice, and sometimes we just need to move more. The ashtanga practice is like a dance with a lifelong partner. Sometimes we dance faster, sometimes slower, and sometimes we rest. Sometimes we love each other more, sometimes less, but we are still here, together, with love and respect for the process.
There is so much pressure today on us woman. The constant pull of material achievements and damaging comparisons is exhausting. Unfortunately, in the Yoga community, these challenges are also present. It is so important to find and listen to our inner voice and intuition in these confusing times, and practice and act in a way that serves our bodies and minds. To accept our imperfectly perfect self. To create loving relationships with ourselves, and be joyful while practicing all the series.
I think that is the biggest gift we can give to our children and ourselves.
Join Irena in the mystical Nepal this October 25-November 2, for an incredible Ashtanga Yoga retreat in the Himalayan hills!