We like to be in control of our lives, don’t we? As a Prenatal Yoga teacher in Los Angeles, I meet so many women – just like I was – certain that with enough To-Do lists, helpful apps, and a can-do attitude they could pop baby out, enjoy the postpartum time and get right back to social gatherings. Only now they’d have baby wrapped on their slim body that had already snapped-back – better than ever!
And some people can. I’m not saying it’s not possible. But over the years I’ve grown to see the whole process of becoming a mom as a huge wave that overtakes us, drags us along, scratches us up and then dumps us back onto the beach. We look around, try to catch our breath and wonder what just happened to us.
It started with my own experience. I was blissed out when I had my baby. But I also felt isolated, exhausted, depleted and stressed out.
So, the question arose: how should I prepare the Ma Yoga teachers to teach their students (whose biggest fear was labor) that there was something that would have a much bigger effect on their lives, their relationships, and their identities…
I started Ma Yoga in 2009 to teach prenatal teachers how to incorporate preparation for motherhood in their classes – specifically what I call “Anchor Practices”: so we can connect to our powerful, wise, and nurturing Self in as short amount of time as possible.
Because as moms, it’s not just OUR inner peace we’re responsible for, it’s our child’s. We usually don’t have an hour and half of serene quality “me” time. But we shouldn’t have to feel bad that we’re not doing enough, like a traditional yoga practice, that – let’s face it – was created by men. We just have to change our practice to fit or new needs.
These practices are honed from the traditional yoga, straight to the essence for busy mamas who want their body, mind, and heart to be at the top of their game again.
So when people ask me “what should I do for my anxiety?” “how can I tone my belly again?” “how can I improve my focus/get energy/get out of pain?” it’s pretty much the same response: start a short daily home practice.
The most important of all the Anchor Practices (daily habits, such as ideal times to sleep to optimal first foods of the day) is our home practice. According to pretty much all spiritual traditions, the morning is the most potent time; but when you can’t get to your home practice in the morning just try to fit it in whenever you can.
One note: a home practice for busy moms is not about being “good” at anything. It needs to be like taking a shower – it’s not a decision we need to spend energy on making, it’s not what some of us can do and some of us can’t… it’s just what we need to do to connect with our most mature, calm self amidst the chaos.
Think of it this way – do you step out of the shower and say “wow, I really showered well today?” No, you just do it and then get on with things.
Here are the essential elements for what I call the:
“Ma” Morning Practice
(Ma in Sanskrit stands for the divine flow of nurturing energy):
1.) Grab a notebook and sit on a blanket or cushion, in a place in your house that feels special to you. Over time put some things nearby, such as rocks, shells, candles, or whatever makes you feel good and calm.
2.) Do a breath practice. Start with this easy grounding breath: close your eyes and exhale to the count of 6 through your mouth. If you’re not pregnant, use your abs to draw ribs and belly in and back on the exhale. Either way, make a “ha” sound like you’re misting up a window in winter.
Then breathe in through your nose to the count of 6, lifting your chest and sitting up tall. With each inhale, sit taller and with each exhale, softly rest your shoulders and ribs back and allow yourself to be held (as if you were sitting in a soft chair).
Do these breaths a bunch of times, and connect to this new feeling of spacious.
For many of us – especially those with anxiety and a lot of stress – we are in fight-or-flight mode all the time. Our adrenals are overworking and getting tired out, and they are never getting a break.
Focusing on a long exhale slows down the heart rate and blood pressure, like pressing the reset button for our nervous system.
3.) Close your eyes and sit in meditation for 2 minutes, which means let go of everything – even judgement about how well you’re letting go. Let your thoughts float by without attaching to them (no, they won’t stop coming – we are not that in control).
4.) Pick up your notebook (I like this cheap leather one from Amazon) and write a list of what was hard about yesterday. Then, write a list of what was really wonderful about yesterday. You’ll be surprised at how much there was.
It is so important to acknowledge it and start to look for all the gifts that come each day!
Then, ask your Future Self for advice. This may sound crazy, but I have gotten SO much information from doing this. She is just our wise inner voice. The other day she said “slow down today” and another day she said “one thing at a time, it will all get done.” If you do this practice long enough, her voice will become the one leading the way forward in your life.
5.) Get on hands and knees (on a rug or yoga mat) and simply do cat/cow with your breath. This connects your movement to your innate rhythm for the day, so you’ll be able to find it again later. If you don’t know cat/cow – or want more poses to add into your home practice – join us in the Ma Yoga Living Room.
That’s it! This is the essential morning practices for mamas.
Whatever movement you do first thing, keep your exhales long and you will align with a deeper, slower rhythm that will be able to connect with all day. You will be able to access your inner GPS, and your life will reflect more and more your authentic desires. Focusing on the full exhale will teach your nervous system to stay calm, focused, energized and strong – no matter what waves come and knock you off your feet!