The Babbling Lotus

Jacqui Nash's Musings on Yoga, Food & Parenthood

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Parenthood: Devotional Yoga at Its Finest

Early this month I taught a yoga class based on Love and Yoga. We can basically say that love and yoga are synonymous and that yoga without love is, flat out, not yoga. As I do for most classes when preparing, I grabbed my books and searched through the pages to find a thought that resonated with me to share with the class.

In the wonderful read, Erich Schiffmann’s Yoga: Moving Into Stillness, he says about love and yoga, “It’s the willingness to let go of what you think something is in order to see it clearly–as it really is…You welcome love–that is, you become able to see that which is Real in each and everything–by clearing your mind of prejudice and beliefs and then being with things as they are.” Perfectly stated, I couldn’t help but equate this not only to the practice of yoga, but to the divine and unconditional love as a mother/father. Parenthood is a selfless life where expectations of the journey and the child fly out the door the minute we hold our child for the first time, and we say, “We love you and will always love you no matter what.”
family for parenthood yoga

Very shortly after I had my daughter is 2013, the relationship between parenthood and yoga was pretty apparent to me, most specifically the aspects of patience, understanding, and breathing. When people would ask me how things were going as a new mom, I’d usually reply that this new adventure had become another component of my yoga practice in addition to my years of twisting, stretching, balancing, and studying.

However, it wasn’t until after my daughter was one that I was able to truly see how profound the journey as a mother would be to my ongoing practice. The first and only time that I’ve been away from my family was last summer at yoga retreat, specifically centered around Bhakti (devotional) yoga. While a beautiful practice, I hadn’t considered myself as a practitioner of this type of yoga, and this weekend was an exploration of something that was unfamiliar to me. As I sat at lunch one afternoon with a new friend, I was sharing some stories about my daughter and I began to cry. This didn’t usually happen when I talked about my daughter, and, flustered with embarrassment, I quickly wiped my tears and apologized. She quickly dismissed my excuses and said, “This is beautiful. This is complete love and devotion. This. Your apparent love truly is Bhakti.” She couldn’t have said anything more prefect, and her words shone an even greater light on the idea that my experiences as a mother will forever be one of the most influential teachers on my yogic path.

Most parents are not “yogis” or yoga practitioners in the terms of the strict definition, but I’d say all selfless and devoted parents embody a yogi more than he or she would ever know. Yoga is a practice of complete love and devotion, selflessness and giving, patience and understanding, non-judgement and acceptance. Sound like something else? According to the words laid out by Schiffmann, I’d say having  a child skyrockets all parents on a yogic journey, whether they perceive it or not.


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The Moms’ Room of Sadhana

sadhana, mama & me yoga, mom yogaAccording to the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, “The room of sadhana (practice)…should be spotlessly clean and free from animals or insects…The appearance of the room should be pleasant.” Well if you’re a mom and think of your home as a place for sadhana, I have a feeling that it’s not going to follow these guidelines laid out by Swami Swatmarama. If you’re home is anything like mine, it’s constantly littered with toys, diapers, laundry and no matter how many hours I spend in the kitchen a day, that sink is never empty. When I practice at home, I can usually clear out an area to place my mat down, but my legs and arms are often fighting for space if they ever stray from the 21 square feet of the yoga mat. This is why we retreat to yoga studios where the calmness, cleanliness and open, uncluttered space is enough to bring tears to our eyes.

Each week I teach a Mama & Me yoga class for moms with their babies up to 2 years old. When I tell people I teach this class, many respond with a surprised, “The babies do yoga?!” No, definitely not. This class is specifically for moms, to whom I teach while her child learns to roll on a blanket next to them, or in some cases like my own, her child walks around to each mom to see what snacks they’ve brought to “share.” Because many of us moms cannot get a free hour to go to a yoga class, where we can bask in the austerity and cleanliness of the open space, there are opportunities throughout communities where we can bring our little ones to a class, a studio that is a safe place, to try to get some  yoga in and join in a yoga-mom community.

While we do carry some of that clutter from our home to occupy our little ones during the mom yoga class, it’s most importantly a destination to help us keep the internal home for our deepest inner being clean and balanced. No matter how much or how little asana we actually get to practice during the Mama & Me class, it’s helpful, even for me as the instructor, to come to this communal spot to clear out and calm the ever racing mind. It’s an “anything goes” class, which I love, and which is the true embodiment of yoga. No attachments to the questionable circumstances that might occur when you bring your baby to class. Will I be nursing a lot? Will my child scream the whole time? Will my child nap the entire class for me to do an entire hour of yoga?! We have to be ok with whatever happens during that hour and just enjoy the energy of the mothers around us. While we try to work on asana sequences that strengthen the body, most importantly, we strengthen the concentration and attention of the mind to create balance and serenity. This community of moms is working together to keep the home for their inner beings, where the real sadhana happens, “clean and pleasant.”

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Lunch with SiSi

As parents…actually, let me rephrase that. As PEOPLE, many of us are guilty of putting as much on our plates and humanly possible. Work, clubs, classes, laundry, pets, appointments, fundraisers. You name it. We pile it on and fill up every second of every day, so much so that sometimes our relationships, family, friends, partners, go by the wayside. Sometimes, just a conscious effort of stopping by a friend’s or a weekly text to a sister (yes, I’d say texts, while seeming impersonal, are an acceptable form of touching base), is enough to keep a drifting relationship from falling completely out of sight.

photo(12)Not to say that my relationship with my daughter has gone by the wayside (I sure hope not, since she’s only a year old!), but a few month ago, I made the deliberate decision to go out to lunch with her every Tuesday. She’s a baby, I know, but on those weeks that I keep adding and adding to my agenda, I know that I have Tuesday afternoon to spend with SiSi, when distractions like the messy kitchen sink, the pile of clothes that need to be folded or preparation for a yoga class is not staring me in the face and I can concentrate on the most important person in my life. Hopefully, this can be a tradition that we continue, and that commitment is on me especially since I’ll be the one planning our schedule for many years. And, hey, right now she’s a great listener and has a lot of great advice, such as, “A ya ya ba ya ya aaaaaaa.” Genius.