After returning to work from maternity leave, my yoga practice was irregular. On a good week, I was able to practice once or twice for half hour. I was becoming frustrated at my inability to practice regularly and my sleep and my body were starting to suffer. There were also the issues that are harder to quantify: my stress level, how I looked at the world, my happiness. Yes, all those things were affected when I wasn't practicing yoga on a regular basis! And if mama is stressed, baby doesn't get what he needs.
I attributed not practicing to lack of time. What's a mama to do? Ten hour work days, time with baby jammed into the two hours that he is awake and I am home, household chores to be done, food to be made, etc., etc. Not to mention lack of sleep with baby breastfeeding throughout the night.
Looking back on it though, there were two deeper reasons that I was not practicing. One is that I practice yoga in the morning. Period. I'm just that kind of yogi. After having a baby, though, my schedule made it impossible to practice in the morning. And, even if I can't do it first thing in the morning, I would never do it at night for fear it would keep me from sleeping. Yes, this is the true reason I wasn't practicing: fear of practicing yoga at night. And yet, I had free time at night. I am a creature of habit who feels safe and comforted with routines.
The other reason I wasn't practicing, is that although I called it a "home" yoga practice, I was really following a dvd. The dvd required a half hour's time and as a mama, I just couldn't manage a half hour. And, I thought, if I can't do the dvd, I can't do anything. So, my real fear was developing an authentic home practice, where I turned off the TV, listened to my body and did as my intuition guided me, not what a dvd instructed.
I was growing more and more frustrated with not practicing, when a few months ago, I received an email from Yoga Journal inviting me to join the 21 day challenge. Essentially, they would provide instruction for 21 days of yoga and ask me to commit to practicing everyday. Many of the practices were 20 minutes or less, so it seemed doable. I got myself excited and decided to do it. I didn't even make it through the first day. I began watching the video and it didn't do anything for me. But, I was able to step back and appreciate the gift that had arrived in my inbox: the idea that I could make a commitment to practice yoga everyday and that it need not be a prescribed amount of time. If I could find 15 minutes for yoga, I knew I would feel good, body and soul.
So, I did it! I told myself that I would take those 21 days to see what I could do with a home practice. I finally realized that I didn't have to lay out a perfect routine of poses, in which one beautifully built upon the other. I could just do what felt good. I also convinced myself that morning wasn't the only time I could practice. After 21 days, I could take stock and see if if was working.
Boy, did it. I've been practicing regularly, before bed for about three months now. At first I told myself that I would practice for a minimum of 15 minutes since it's pretty hard to come up with an excuse not to practice for 15 minutes. On the other hand, if I REALLY can't find 15 minutes, I don't beat myself up for it. On average, I practice for about 20-30 minutes most nights. I am a better mama and a better person for my practice. I truly think it has moved me beyond the idea of just making it through everyday to being present in my life and with my son and enjoying both as much as I can.
My practice is not perfect. I still struggle with knowing what poses to do in the "right" order. I get stuck in patterns of thinking I "have" to do certain poses every night in a logical order. At the beginning of my practice, I often find myself mapping out the poses for the night, instead of focusing on the present pose.
The important thing is that I am practicing and enjoying the fruits of my commitment, imperfections and all. Now, if I could just find time to meditate.....