What yoga means to me now

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Last night, I put Orson to bed and then left the house for the evening for the first time since he was born. What did I chose to do with my evening? I went to yoga. He hadn’t settled that well, which was unusual going by the last few weeks, so I left the house feeling a little apprehensive. I drove to the studio and struggled to find somewhere to park, so only just arrived in time. It was packed and I had to squeeze my mat into a spot right at the front by the teacher. With everyone already settled on their mats I was clumsy, dropped my water bottle, struggled to unroll my mat. By this point, I was feeling stressed, anxious and wondering why the hell I had decided to venture out on a cold, wet, rainy January evening to take my first ‘proper’ yoga class in 9 months.

And then it started. I closed my eyes. I took a deep breath, and then another.

We moved slowly.  At times I forgot there was any one else in the room.

The teacher, guided us through the most wonderful class. She was measured, patient, grounding. I eased out my limbs, bits of me feeling so different since I’ve become a mother. Yet, so much feeling familiar.

The thing is, I haven’t stopped doing yoga. I just do it differently now. The month before I became pregnant I undertook a ‘Warrior Challenge’ in which I went to a yoga class every day for a month. I’d been a member of my studio for the past year going to a few classes a week. I was reading yoga books in my spare time. I’d undertaken a meditation course and was meditating every morning. I was perfecting arm balances, strengthening my transitions and embracing the eight limbs of yoga. I was attending retreats and workshops. Yoga had started to become my life.

And then, I fell pregnant. I went to pregnancy yoga classes a couple of times a week. I embraced the changes to my body, connected to my baby growing inside me, strengthened myself for childbirth. It opened me up to mindful hypnobirthing, natural birth, my strength as a woman. I did more reading, I attended yoga birthing workshops, and I was more in love with yoga than ever before.

Before Orson arrived, I had planned to keep my own personal practice going by attending a few classes a week at the weekends and in the evenings. But that’s just not how it worked out for me. I had a gorgeous baby that I was breastfeeding on demand, who would only sleep if I held him in my arms. He needed me. The intense early weeks and months of motherhood don’t allow space for much, let alone a yoga class. As the months have gone on, I’ve felt further and further removed from what I thought was the most important aspect of my yoga practice.

So, getting back on my mat at a yoga class last night, was amazing. But, it also made me realise that it’s not the most important part of my yoga practice anymore. I don’t at the moment have time for lots of classes. I can’t make retreats and workshops. My yoga books have mostly stayed on the shelf. I am however practicing yoga every day. I’m practicing in how I chose to live my life. I’m more mindful than ever before. The moments that I have to roll out my mat at home feel even more precious. I go to mum and baby yoga and I may spend 80% of the class looking at my little boy but it’s such a special shared experience. And you know what, that hour that I had in class last night, I relished. I was present the entire time. And I finally listen to my body. Really listen. It has changed so much that it needs respect. I need to get to know it all over again. I make it a priority to take a step back and deeply breathe. My yoga practice now is a gift, not a right.

So, in so many ways, yoga is life to me even more now. It’s every moment of every day.

Focus and flow

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This is something that has taken me a while to come to terms with. I’m someone that always has a massive to do list that I’m striving to achieve. I have priorities for the day, i.e. more than one, which definitely defeats the object. Most of the time nowadays I’m lucky if even one thing gets done. Add to that all my long term goals, and things I think I ‘should’ do, the list is ridiculous. Even when I’m feeling good it makes my mind busy, so I struggle to switch off. On my bad days, it leaves me feeling like a failure, stressed and anxious.

I’ve talked in the past about my ‘faddy’ nature. Pretty much as soon as I’ve started something new, I’m on to the next thing. I struggle to be content with continuing with things long term, day after day, even when I love them. I’m ten steps ahead, rather than finding my flow for a while.

The last couple of days I’ve been having a bit of an internal battle about my blog. It’s been a few months now and all of a sudden, my reach has just shot up. I’m really pleased that more and more people are reading it. I’m getting emails and messages on a daily basis about how much people are enjoying my writing, that it has struck a chord or that they can relate. Others telling me that I’ve inspired them to get outside or open up about their mental health battles. I feel incredibly grateful, BUT, rather than being motivated, I’ve just started worrying about what I’m writing and where it’s going, what platforms I’m using to promote it. I feel pressure to write more, schedule posts, learn from other bloggers, give advice and try to build a following. It started off as a way to get things off my chest and I promised myself that I would just write from the heart. Now I’ve got a whole load of words going around in my head and no idea where to turn and where to focus. At the start I felt I had nothing to lose, but now I’m second guessing everything, procrastinating and stalling.

So when I came across this quote, I really felt it was the right time. It is a great reminder that I can do anything I put my mind to – I firmly believe that and it has proved to be true in the past. But I can’t do everything. I can’t maintain the perfect standards I want in every area of my life. I can find time to do things that are important to me, but it’s always a choice that has to be made with that time. Now more than ever I need to make sure the things that I’m doing are making me happy (truly happy), aligning with my values, feeding my mind, body and soul.

Writing is so important to me. When I lose myself in words, when I get them out of my head and on to paper, I feel better. When I read my writing back it’s a permanent reminder to myself about the lessons learned, the traps I fall into, how far I’ve come. I’ve still got to write for myself. I need to write when the inspiration strikes, when I have something I want to say. So tonight, I’m taking a step back. I’m reminding myself of the things and people that are important to me, and I’m making a commitment to myself to honour these, focus and flow. That’s what I’m using my time for.

 

 

 

The reality behind the pose

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This photo was taken a few months before I found out I was pregnant. I’m not going to lie, at the time, I thought I looked hot. I had newly bleached hair (that I’d wanted for years), a new tight black dress and expensive makeup. I was on the way out to party at a friends wedding reception. When I made the photo my profile picture I got tons of likes and comments and that was what I thought I wanted.

But the reality was totally different. Now I look back at this photo and I can see in my eyes that I’m not truly happy. I was still in counselling, getting better but still needing it. I was struggling with low self esteem, bleaching my hair as a front. Craving attention and hating it at the same time. When this photo was taken on route to the wedding reception I’d already polished off a whole bottle of prosecco to ease my social anxiety and by the end of the night I was a mess, predictably. I’ve always been a messy drunk. At my best, sick, at my worst, aggressive, at my absolute worst, a cheat.

The thing is, I had a great life, an amazingly supportive and loving husband who’s my best friend and soul mate, family that are there for me no matter what, fabulous friends. I had a rewarding job, health and hobbies. But I was obsessed with what people thought. There were so many things that I wanted to change about my appearance. I exercised and counted calories but never got to where I wanted to be. I felt self-conscious unless I was made up, like in this photo. Then I just wanted attention to make me feel validated.

Now, I’m a bit of a mum cliché. Saggy bits, grey hairs, aching back. I haven’t made my appearance a priority. My wardrobe (which is mainly nursing tops and leggings) is in serious need of an overhaul. So this week I embarked on getting fit again. But, I’ve come to terms with the fact that I might never fit in my cute dresses again. My body has housed and nurtured a little baby, then delivered him to the world. It’s nourished him exclusively for 6 months and continues to do so. My body is amazing. This time, I’m not getting fit to be able to wear a slinky dress again, I can do that anyway, I’m proud of my body! No, I’m getting fit so that I’m the best and healthiest version of myself. So that I’m the example that I want to be to my son. I want to be strong, confident and healthy. Motherhood has changed me like nothing else has. So although I may never look like this again, I know that now, I’m the best and happiest version of me.

 

The passage of time

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I always find the new year a tricky time. It seems to come around so suddenly, another year over so quickly. My anxiety is heightened thinking about how fast time is flying, the things that haven’t yet been achieved, how life just seems to have sped up now I’m in my thirties. This year I’ve also had a tinge of panic about how close I am to returning to work, worrying about whether I’ve made the most of our time off together.

So much is changing with my little boy right now. He’s clapping, he wrinkles his nose when he laughs, he dances in his high chair to the radio, he pulls off his socks, he pinches peas with his fingers and examines them, he looks at everything so intently with such a wise old stare. He has a super determined face when he tries to reach for something, and his little hands have a funny way of opening and closing, like a stroke and a tap at the same time, when he’s exploring something new. His eyes light up when he’s happy, which is pretty much all the time.

So much is changing that I want to capture every single moment. Time is going so fast there is an aching in my chest. A tightness that says I want to stop time and live in this moment forever.

I try to write it all down. I try to take lots of photos. But it’s just not enough.

So, this quote seemed incredibly apt. Time is going to fly and there is nothing I can do about it. All the more reason to live in the moment, slow down, drink it all in, savour. That’s the best way for these precious memories to stick.