Updated: Feb 19
I've spent the past few years on my social media platforms trying to convince moms they should do yoga. In competing with 'body-back', 'bounce-back', 'strong as a mother' messaging, I've been fighting a hard effing battle. It often feels like screaming into the wind.
Trying to convince moms to spend their free time, which is often precious and hard to come by, doing something that is not (always) going to positively affect their pant size, can feel much like motherhood itself- emotional waterboarding.
So many of us want more bang for our buck, myself included.
But here I am. Here I continue to be- beating the same horse, because I truly believe in the power of this thing (practice, system, belief- call it what you will). I believe in yoga. I believe in the power it can hold for people- especially mothers.
This has nothing to do with the pelvic floor. I do care if you're peeing or feel heaviness in your vagina when you move, of course I do- those physical sensations are more than just a discomfort, but that's not why yoga is special to me.
Of course my body has changed due to carrying and birthing babies but my soul- my deep seated being, has changed more. I am different now. And how I move my body has to navigate not only my physical needs, but the emotional needs that are unfolding day by day.
In the past 13 years that I've been teaching there is one common thread that has united my students. They have (almost) all relayed the same positive impact: yoga has given them "space", "a sense of calm", "anxiety relief", "improved emotional health"- said in a million different ways over thousands of classes.
In brief: YOGA HAS GIVEN THEM A SENSE OF PEACE THEY DIDN'T PREVIOUSLY HAVE.
This has nothing to do with me as a teacher or the style of yoga I teach- because I've taught all different varieties, in a variety of settings: power, flow, restorative, beginner, intermediate, prenatal, postpartum, all-levels, at gyms, studios, colleges, office buildings... you name it. They have ALL elicited the same result: people with a greater sense of self, ease, and space.
AND WHAT could be more important for mothers- people who often put themselves on the back burner to tend to everyone else's emotions and needs. We eat last, we sleep last, we pee last- we oft put ourselves the lowest on the totem poll. What greater way to cause emotional dis-ease?
As someone with diagnosed anxiety, I was keenly aware prior to kids of overwhelm and stress. Having children amplified every mental health challenge I faced- I struggled immensely with prenatal and postpartum depression wanting desperately to feel peace, awareness, calm, and ease in yet more often feeling like I was going to crawl out of my own skin because I couldn't feel any of that.
I tried to suppress and combat my mental health issues with more intense forms of exercise- running, high- intensity workouts but unfortunately, I fell flat- I was, quite literally, running myself into the ground trying to elevate myself emotionally, exacerbating my pelvic floor issues, causing more emotional wreckage.
It was only when I began reintroducing myself to yoga, and to moving in a more mindful way that I discovered what I had been missing. I realized that when I allowed myself time to practice, I was more easily able to calm my mind, feel space in my life, and generally be a better human and mother. And still I find that when yoga plays a larger roll in my daily living, I yell less, I'm able to responds instead of react, and I listen more intently.
I am just better with yoga.
I believe this to be so, not because of the movements, but because yoga is a really easy way to practice mindfulness without the added pressure of formal meditation- linking breath to movement offers a really unique opportunity to tune out some of the external chatter, check in with yourself, and still move your body a bit. It's an easy way to combine the work of the mind with the work of the body.
More bang. More buck.
And while I don't believe that yoga is better for moms than it is for anyone else (I truly believe everyone can benefit from the practice) I do believe that mothers are different. Motherhood, especially the early seasons of motherhood, are full of angst, worry, doubt, and fear. I often hear moms talking about the guilt, loss of self, anger, rage and depression that they didn't experience prior to children and confusion they have in how to treat and handle those emotions. Motherhood is full of trial and tribulation that cannot aptly be explained to someone who is not in the throws of it. And from what I hear, all mothers experience these same things, yet, in our own different ways. Our experiences are so similar and yet so different.
So, I speak from my experience- I need yoga and you need yoga too, mama friend. It'll change your life.
If you would like to try a free month of yoga that is aimed at the minds, hearts, and bodies of moms, click here, and sign up using the code mamalove.
If you want a little more science based info on how yoga has been shown to affect mental health, here are just a few articles for you:
Want to combine yoga with an effective but efficient resistance training program built just for moms? Check out 10 Minute Mama- a self-paced fitness and mindfulness program for busy moms written by myself and Lauren Mott!