The Meaning of “Ma”: It’s more than just mother in every language.

Many people asked how having a baby changed how I taught prenatal yoga.

I had been teaching prenatal yoga for seven years when I became a mom. I loved being pregnant, made life-long friends with the moms-to-be in my class, and fully expected that motherhood would feel much the same.

Instead, it was a serious slap upside the head.

I was exhausted, waking up every three hours to feed my baby. And she could fall right back asleep – not me. I remember lying there trying to sleep knowing the monster would awaken before I knew it, wanting its sacrifice again.

I was depleted, because I had never really learned how to make healthy food easily, and I didn’t have time to figure it out. My prenatal class was across from a Whole Foods and I was just used to having someone else make my food. So I just grabbed what was around.

I was isolated, as my prenatal yoga class had been almost an hour away in LA traffic, so the moms were spread out everywhere. By the time I got to a park for a playdate I’d have a whole other round of feeding, changing, napping – it was exhausting to just think about it.

Of course I had known that it would be hard. I knew I would no longer be able to hop in a car and drive out to Las Vegas for the weekend (I was fine with that honestly).

What I didn’t know is I wouldn’t have the time to take a shower. Or get dressed. Or do yoga.

Yoga was the hard one. I was used to going to a 90 minute, intensely uplifting class in a beautiful, serence studio where I could just relax and be present.

By the time I got myself back to a yoga class, when my baby was about six months, all I could think about was her. I just wanted to be home.

Becase at the same time as all of this, I was in bliss. I could not believe the universe had brought me such a perfect little human. I luckily did not fall in to depression, although I definitely had the blues.

I realized I had never actually learned how to take care of myself. So I set out to learn.

Ayurveda

Ayurveda is the 5,000 year old sister science to yoga. I took a year-long, online course (at the time it was just audio!) and my mind was blown. I could actually learn these profoundly helpful concepts, alongside people from as far away as Australia – all while I was pushing my baby in her stroller.

I remember that year as so mind-blowing, it was like my jaw was dropped the entire time. So I took it again the next year.

No one had ever given me these tools to take care of myself: to support healing, and to help my body thrive.

It was like getting a manual in “How to Have a Body”.

And while there was a ton of fascinating information, like the six levels of tissues, and how to understand what the ever-changing color and shape of our tongue is telling us – it was the self-care routines that had the most profound affect on me.

Ayurveda training - ma yoga online prenatal yoga certification programI learned to do coconut oil massage, neti pot, oil swishing… I learned to drink spice water and use different spices to support my immune system, to help me calm down, to give me energy.

I discovered there were certain times of the day that had a particular energy, so different activities would be easier and different times.

Especially sleep. I learned how to support falling asleep and staying asleep.

I discovered how to get rid of the baby weight.

And most of all, I learned the magic what happens when I actually prioritized taking care of myself.

A Different Kind of Prenatal Yoga

I realized that while my prenatal yoga had helped me have a beautiful pregnancy, and allowed me to have an empowering birth even though it went nothing like I had hoped – it had not prepared me for postpartum.

Or, I should say, I could have – all the tools were there – but I hadn’t noticed them.

Community is so important in prenatal yoga, and yet I didn’t have one as a new mom.

Letting go of all-or-nothing thinking and doing what we can is essential when we’re pregnant, and yet I didn’t know to do that as a new mom.

And nurturing ourselves is key when we’re pregnant, and I didn’t have a clue how to do that as a new mom.

I decided to create a prenatal yoga studio where moms could come back easily with their babies, and part of the process was learning off-the-mat self-care practices and principles.

I needed a name for it.

The “Ma” in Ma Yoga

I had loved learning in my yoga philosophy classes about the goddesses.

There were so many! Lakshmi, who symbolizes wealth and beauty… Saraswati, who takes every experience and transmutes it into art…

And at the top of the heap was Ma Kali, the Mother of all Goddesses. Kali represents the primal screamTHE MEANING OF MA within us. She’s got dried blood in her dreadlocks, she’s holding the head of her concubine and she’s dancing on the edge of socity, in the graveyard.

Kali is our mother, and we call her up when we need our greatest power – like birth. As so often is the case, she’s a little embarrassing, but we know she’s coming from love, so we love her back.

Kali is what we need to tap in to when we just need to express ourselves without fear – and make a stand for what we love most deeply.

“Ma” Means Mother

What I also discovered is that you can find the syllable “Ma” in the word for mother in just about every language:

Afrikaans: “Moeder” or “Ma”
Albanian: “Nene” or “Meme”
Arabic: “Ahm”
Belarusan: “Matka”
Bosnian: “Majko”
Bulgarian: “Майко”
Catalan: “Mare”
Croatian: “Mati” or “Majka”
Czech: “Matka”
Danish: “Mor”
Dutch: “Moeder” or “Moer”
Estonian: “Ema”
French: “Mere” or “Maman”
German: “Mutter”
Greek: “Mana” or “Μητέρα”
Haitian Creole: “Manman”
Hawaiian: “Makuahine”
Hindi: “मां” or “Maji”
Icelandic: “Móðir”
Indonesian: “Induk,” “Ibu,” “Biang” or “Nyokap”
Irish: “Mathair”
Italian: “Madre” or “Mamma”
Japanese: “Okaasan” or “母親”
Latin: “Mater”
Latvian: “Māte”
Lithuanian: “Motina”
Norwegian: “Mamma” or “Mor”
Persian: “Madr” or “مادر”
Polish: “Matka” or “Mama”
Portuguese: “Mãe”
Punjabi: “Mai,” “Mataji” or “ਮਾਂ”
Romanian: “Mamă” or “Maica”
Russian: “Мать”
Serbian: “Majko”
Slovak: “Mama” or “Matka”
Spanish: “Madre,” “Mama” or “Mami”
Swahili: “Mama,” “Mzazi” or “Mzaa”
Swedish: “Mamma,” “Mor” or “Morsa”
Ukrainian: “Мати”
Vietnamese: “Mẹ”
Welsh: “Mam”
Yiddish: “מוטער”

I loved the combination of “Ma” in Sanskrit being the highest, most powerful and wise – and Ma everywhere meaning mother energy.

“Ma Yoga” is Born

The idea that there are two births was already familiar to me: the baby, and the mother to this baby.

For me, there was this discover of the possibility of a third birth: of us, as a mother to ourselves.

I felt deeply that it was time to take the pressure off my mom find that nurturing mother energy elsewhere.

Thanksfully Ayurveda had taught me to turn nurturing energy inward.

I had principles and practices that helped me mother myself, and in the process remember that I was worth caring for.

In my body, my mind and my spirit.

I even began to try and talk to myself in my mind the way I would talk to my toddler learning to walk.

If my toddler fell, I wouldn’t say “there you go again! Just like last time. You will never be able to get this because you suck, so you might as well not try.”

So, I realized, why would I say that to myself? And what happens when I decide to talk to myself lovingly, in the same way that’s instinctive to me as a mom?

As in: “It’s ok, of course that’s going to happen. You’re going to (eat that cupcake, not get that thing done, go back to that old habit) – it’s all part of the process. I’m here for you, and tomorrow’s a new day. You got this.”

And what happens to us when we learn to turn nurturing energy inward?

When we lovingly toward toward ourselves, and remember we are made of the same wise and powerful stuff that our loved ones are – when we take a seat on our mat and receive our breath fully – we find ourselves in a current of nurturing energy, that carries us through even our most chaotic days.

When we find support and guidance and allow ourselves to be held by the earth, always there beneath us… when we take time to do true self-care, so that our deepest tissues receive this nurturing energy… when we learn to embody that mother energy for ourselves… that’s when we begin to embody our highest, powerful and wise “Ma” Self.

Thank you for spreading the Ma love!

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