In the run-up to Mother’s Day, we asked one of our hosts, Laura, to tell us how her yoga and wellness retreats in Anglesey, as well as the practice of yoga in everyday life, relates to motherhood and how it can impact her and her clients in raising children.
All I ever wanted was to be a mother. I was 34 when I had my first child and now I have three beautiful children, Freddie, Beatrice and Florence. Raising them and staying sane is the hardest thing I have ever done and will probably ever do in my life.
To be honest, up until I had children all I ever really thought about was myself. I would spend hours a day practicing yoga, gosh it was so indulgent! I would clean and hoover before my practice, as the right environment had to be created, incense, music etc. Oh, how times have changed, as I roll out my mat brushing aside the crisps and crumbs from beneath it! But during those years I remember going to an Ashtanga yoga workshop, learning about the discipline of a daily practice.
In Ashtanga yoga, you are meant to practice two hours a day six days a week! I questioned this with regards to when you have children and those 6 am yoga slots are just not available anymore. The teacher’s response was along the lines of “As long as the intention is there that’s all that matters. It’s when you stop rolling out the mat that you have a problem.” He said “You roll out the mat, wherever you are and your practice might be standing at the top of the mat taking five deep breaths, or you might just be getting into your flow and you are needed elsewhere to deal with demands of your children. But no matter how long or how deeply you practice the intention is there”.
“As long as the intention is there that’s all that matters. It’s when you stop rolling out the mat that you have a problem.”
I have thought about this a lot over the last six years and take great comfort from this. I can be very hard on myself at times, as I am sure we all can. The self-talk that I am not doing enough yoga, exercise or whatever can often be so loud, but at the end of the day, I try to remember that there is only so much energy to go around and that children take up a huge amount of that!
So yes, life has become very hectic since becoming a mother to my three children who are now 5, 3 and 2. If only I had a pound for every time someone said, “Gosh you’ve got your hands full” as I fly past like some mad woman leading a travelling circus. It is so very hard at times and can sometimes be overwhelmingly stressful. Even as I write this at 6.30am I have my youngest awake and I can hear her pouring water from cups, it’s bought me ten minutes to write this but it will involve ten minutes of clearing up! It is relentless, which is why holding on to regular yoga practice has been so vital to my health and helps to create a pillar of wellness for me.
Dr Julie Smith’s book “Why has no one told me this before?” talks about building resilience to the stress of life whether it’s motherhood or not. She describes the importance of working on your defence players. These players in your game of life are what will help you cope with the curve balls that motherhood throws at you. They are all the small, simple actions and choices you take on a daily basis to protect yourself from basically losing your sh*t and falling down that slippery slope into low mood and depression.
Food, sleep, time to self, good relationships, exercise, time outdoors, etc. They don’t offer huge instant rewards but over time, put together, they are what protect you and keep you afloat. I feel with motherhood, it is vital to keep your defence up. Some of these areas become shattered in an instant, like your sleep, for example, you have no say over that with newborn babies, or even five year olds for that matter, crawling into your bed in the middle of the night.
“For me my biggest defence player is exercise and exercise outdoors is even better.”
Other areas become eroded over time, like your diet. That feeling when there doesn’t seem enough time to make a meal for yourself and your dinner ends up being you eating humous straight from the tub. But for me my biggest defence player is exercise and exercise outdoors is even better. It has always been and always will be a non-negotiable defence player. I have always kept up my exercise, even after a sleepless night, weary and bruised to the bone. I still get up and I move my body, there is no other decision to be made. Whether it was a run outside in the sun pushing the buggy, or grabbing a quick yoga flow whilst the baby napped and now, being able to drop them all off at school and nursery, I am able to enjoy some great gym sessions as a kick start to my day, which in turn has a positive impact on my mental wellbeing and hence my ability to mother in a calm and patient way.