Irena and a baby

Yoga, diapers and big breaths

Ashtanga yoga is a demanding discipline, both mentally and physically, for everyone who is practicing, men and woman. Ashtanga requires a lot of self discipline, dedication, and trust in the process. When it comes time for us to add a family to that equation, things can get even more challenging.

For most dedicated Ashtangis, our asana and meditation practice is the most important time of the day. We are adjusting our life styles, eating and sleeping habits, communities, and sometimes even locations, just to accommodate this beautiful practice in our daily schedules.

When becoming a parent, if we want to sustain our practice and be present for our kids and family, it is necessary to make further changes in our lives, again. As a parent, “me time” becomes so valuable and luxurious.

It seems that with the advent of parenthood our priority shifts from “Me” to “Us” in just one day.

For me, personally, that was quite a shock. It took me time to let go of the egotistical need for my own daily rituals and routines, and realise that the addition of family demands greater attention paid to my Seva practice.

Seva practice is truly an expansion of my yoga practice, requiring me to take my asana practice beyond the mat and live my yoga 24/7, cultivating generosity and servitude when possible, and instituting patience and kindness when necessary.

Parenthood and teaching are the same. It is all about practising Seva, and having enough energy to serve my family and my students.

As a woman, and a mother, I have discovered great strength in practicing gentility 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 practice kindness and compassion, and enact our yogic ideals along life’s many paths.

Being aware of the shifts within ourselves — our own cycles and energy — and also the constant changes that occur in our families, is a crucial element in my daily practice.

Becoming a mother put me in greater touch with my feminine side. Additionally, my practice became more soft and gentle. Motherhood has allowed me to cultivate more compassion towards my self and others. On the outside, maybe it still looks like the same series and postures every morning, but it is the inner intention that truly penetrates our subtle energy and inspires lasting transformations.

As a parent and a dedicated practitioner, I have learnt how to be more gentle with my self, and use this practice to give me the energy necessary to face all the challenges of 7th series, instead of being tired and in flexible with my daily routines. Practice now is about how to conserve and contain the energy I need in order to be more present for my daughter.

Discovering my own Self, while being respectful towards the energetic shifts in my body, makes a big difference in the asana practice. Since expanding my view of the ashtanga practice beyond the mat, I have found the practice to be more enjoyable and sweet.

There is an inherent playfulness with the breath, and life, that naturally arises once you have children around. This sentiment is something I always return to. My connection with the breath.

Our breath can show us what is happening in the moment. The breath is our tool to access the nervous system, bringing the system back into balance, while staying in the present moment.

Although, asana practice is just a warm up. The real yoga practice happens off the mat, when dealing with the external world.

If we learn to listen 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.

Practicing Ashtanga can cultivate a lot of fire elements in our bodies and mind. Sometimes we need to find water and earth elements in our asanas to cool, ground, and balance us. Checking in with the breath is key. If we consider this practice as a life long companion, we realise that our practice is changing as we change. Constantly evolving with our bodies, and with our life circumstances.

The ashtanga practice is like a dance with a life long 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.

This practice for me is part of mental and emotional hygiene. A chance to connect with myself every day. It is beautiful to have this tool in my life.

Sometimes this practice is not easy. In those times we take the opportunity to practice self love. To be kind to ourselves. To silence the fast, hard voice of the inner critic, and sit peacefully with whatever arises. Taking ourselves less seriously and trying to be non attached to the stories that our mind and ego create is often helpful with this practice.

There is so much pressure today on us woman. The constant pull of material achievements and damaging comparisons is exhausting. Unfortunately in yoga these challenges are also present. It is so important to find and listen to our inner voice and intuition in these confusing times, and act in the 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.

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